Dion Jordan didn’t exactly jump out of the blocks to start his NFL career, and that’s not an aspersion but simply the truth. The Dolphins first-round pick is still recovering from shoulder surgery, which everyone knew about, so when most of the other rookies got busy trying to impress coaches during Friday’s rookie camp practice, Jordan simply watched.
He couldn’t line up. He couldn’t compete. He couldn’t practice.
“It’s hard,” Jordan said when his 90 minutes as an observer ended. “Man, you get out there and see all the guys working and doing all the drills and stuff and you want to get out there because it doesn’t feel right for me to sit back and watch. It’s really tough.
“But I understand what’s more important right now and that’s my body. That’s my longevity.”
No issues here. Jordan doesn’t have to prove anything now. He doesn’t have to justify his draft status or make any coach’s eyes bulge out with May heroics. His job now is to rehabilitate and be sure he’s whole for training camp in late July and the season’s start in September — which is the Dolphins’ timetable for his recovery.
But when that time comes, the patience of spring disappears. It’s go time. It’s time to produce.
And as the Dolphins first-round selection, the draft’s No. 3 overall pick, and the first pass-rusher selected, Jordan most assuredly is expected to produce at a high level.
He knows it. The Dolphins know it. Fans with hopes of seeing their team rise from four consecutive losing seasons know it.
Dion Jordan can’t be just another guy. He’s got to be the guy at some point in the next couple of years. He’s got to be special.
What does that mean?
Well, the Dolphins privately are comparing Jordan to outstanding performers Jason Taylor, DeMarcus Ware, Jevon Kearse and other players that were built comparably to Jordan coming out of college. I also see a resemblance to San Francisco’s Aldon Smith.
So it’s fair that Jordan — drafted higher than any of those players — should be expected to deliver like those others did. We’re not talking winning sack titles or rookie of the year awards in 2013. We’re not even talking leading his own team in sacks because wrestling that away from Cameron Wake will be difficult.
But Smith had 14 sacks as a rookie. Ware delivered eight sacks as a rookie. Kearse was not only the freak in nickname but in production, collecting 14 1/2 sacks his first year.
Is it unfair to expect similar from Jordan?
Jordan needs to produce along those general lines. It’s fair to expect him to produce seven to nine sacks with double digit hurries as part of a solid rookie year. No, that won’t mean he’s arrived or is a star, but it will suggest picking him as high as the Dolphins did was worthwhile.
The apologist might recall Taylor contributed only five sacks his rookie year so that number by Jordan might be fair. Well, the apologist should remember Taylor was a third-round pick, not the third player picked.
For the record, the Dolphins and Jordan on Friday wanted nothing to do with the idea of being expected to, you know, actually produce at a level commensurate with one’s draft status.
No one wants to put undue pressure on Jordan and he’s smart enough to not put it on himself.
“Honestly, man, my expectations are to come in and do whatever they ask me to help my team out,” he said. “I feel as long as I work hard and do what I’m supposed to, I’ll be successful.”
I asked coach Joe Philbin if expecting a lot from Jordan is fair and he started talking about giving every player an equal chance to compete regardless of his draft status, which is good but also beside the point.
Philbin might view every player through the same prism but there’s no way anyone believes he’s privately expecting the same from Jordan as his seventh-round selection.
A results league
The rules aren’t even the same for Miami’s third-rounder. That’s why no one asked about expectations for rookie offensive lineman Dallas Thomas, who like Jordan, was unable to practice Friday as he also recovers from shoulder surgery.
The point is the Dolphins used their highest pick since 2005 on Jordan and need him to reward that investment. The point is the NFL is a production league.
And it’s fair to expect the pass-rusher drafted atop the draft to produce like it.