Published January 13, 2015
The Miami Dolphins are so eager to see rookie Dion Jordan in Sunday's exhibition opener that they might put him in the game on the first play.
The kickoff, that is.
Jordan wants to play special teams, and the Dolphins are inclined to let him, although they must weigh risk versus reward in using the No. 3 overall draft pick on kick coverage.
The spectacle of the speedy, 6-foot-6, 260-pound Jordan running downfield under kicks could be breathtaking, and the Dolphins would be holding their breath. But Jordan's not worried about getting hurt, even though he's recovering from shoulder surgery in February.
"Every play is dangerous in football," he said. "You've just got to play the right way."
Miami has an enormous investment in Jordan, who played special teams at Oregon but was drafted primarily for his pass-rushing skills. The Dolphins traded up nine spots to select him, then gave him a $20.6 million, four-year contract that included a $13.3 million signing bonus.
Coach Joe Philbin said his contract does not that make him too valuable for special teams.
"That's a huge part of our team," Philbin said. "We have the potential to be very, very good on special teams this year. Dion's had an outstanding attitude toward special teams. To say he's too valuable, absolutely not."
The rookie with the two-tone hair (thanks to training camp hazing) has worked on special teams in training camp and may get a tryout Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys. With 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, he's a candidate for every unit, and played on all of them over the course of his career at Oregon.
"He was a very solid," Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi said. "He's a talented player, and it showed. When you're in the open field like that at his size and can do some of the things he can do, it's impressive."
No big deal, Jordan says.
"It's pretty simple: You go down there, cover the kickoff and tackle the guy with the ball," he says. "But not everybody wants to do it."
The high-speed collisions can rattle bones and nerves, which is why high-profile players rarely block and tackle on special teams. Many didn't even do it in college.
Cameron Wake played special teams when he first joined the Dolphins in 2009, but he was then an undrafted rookie and not yet one of the NFL's best pass rushers. Third-round pick Olivier Vernon played special teams for Miami last year, but he'll likely give up those duties now that he's a first-team defensive end.
Aside from the injury concern, kick coverage is usually considered too taxing for starters already playing 50 snaps or more. But Jordan has been practicing at defensive end behind Vernon and isn't expected to be an every-down player, at least not at first.
Special teams would get him on the field more. Thanks to his imposing wingspan, he might even play when opponents try a field goal or extra point.
"Obviously his physical attributes are great," Rizzi says. "Long people like Dion who can jump, you place a premium on those guys on the block teams, because the rules have made it so hard to block field goals."
Rizzi's units ranked among the best in the NFL last year, and he's eager to take advantage of Jordan's skills, even though he knows there would be plenty of second-guessing if the rookie got hurt covering a kickoff.
"There's a risk of getting hurt when we go out and stretch, too," Rizzi says. "We're going to use him wisely."
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