Battle Red Blog takes a look at the Oregon tweener that might just challenge for the first overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Dion Jordan #96, DE/OLB, Oregon
Height - 6'7"
Weight - 241 lbs.
- Explosive athlete; great deep speed and can burst over short distances to make tackles across the field.
- Extremely long, lean frame has an excellent range when making open field tackles. Very hard to get out of his reach when he can dive and reach you ten yards in any direction.
- Better coverage skills than most linebackers. Has the feet and hips to compete with Joker tight ends and the frame and ball skills to shut down big bodied red zone threats.
- Has far greater strength than his frame would hint at. Stacks tackles, guards, tight ends, and fullbacks with ease against the run. Has the upper body strength to jam big, muscular tight ends at the line in coverage.
- Very good first step in the pass rush. A lot of tackles have to cheat their feet pre-snap to adjust to his speed.
- Very long arms make him virtually impossible to get a clean block on.
- High motor player. Rarely gives up in the middle of a play.
- His experience at tight end shows itself in his ball skills. Won’t get a lot of interceptions, but he has a good sense for locating the ball in the air and taking away the receiver’s vision or desired body angle when going for the catch.
- Despite his speed, he is not a very refined pass rusher. He generally just bull rushes or tries to go for a speed rush. Needs to develop a wider array of moves and counter movers that compliment his athleticism.
- Has issues with awareness and play recognition at times. Seems to struggle with misdirection plays and visibly slows down when he has to resort to reading multiple keys. Plays better when he has one guy to beat, whether it be a receiver or blocker.
- Needs refining in man coverage. Has a tendency to guess at the direction of a release off the line, and rather than letting his feet and hips get him back into the play he panics and tries to jam from bad angles. Because of this, sometimes TEs get separation without really having to do any work for it.
- Has a bad habit of trying too hard to avoid the offensive tackle rather than attacking him and beating him, and as a result he overruns the pocket a lot. Is vulnerable to draws and counters in his direction because he routinely gets too far up field before turning the corner and driving towards the play.
What used to play tight end, looks like a wide receiver, covers like a corner, hits like a linebacker, and pass rushes like a defensive end? The best defensive player in the country, that’s what. Up until writing this, I had watched a little of Dion Jordan here and there, but I had only seen two full games and thought he could be a mid-first round pick. He flashed ability and potential routinely, but I wondered about consistency and whether he could put it together for an entire 60 minutes. This past weekend I sat down at my computer and watched an additional four games from start to finish and came out of this session wondering if Jordan might be worth the number one overall pick, let alone a mid first rounder. Seriously.
I would be hard pressed to overstate how much potential this guy has. It’s rare to see people that can do one thing at a high level, let alone do everything at a high level. Need a three point speed rusher that can get around a tackle on athleticism alone? Dion Jordan. Need a Sam linebacker that can lock down any tight end in the game? Dion Jordan. Need a Leo that can either shut down the run on the edge or pass rush on any given down? Dion Jordan. He’s got a few things to develop, sure, but as far as blank slates that can eventually grow up to change the sport as we know it, Dion Jordan might be to outside linebackers what J.J. Watt is to five-technique defensive ends. It’s high praise, and possibly unwarranted praise in the opinion of some, but if I’m an NFL general manager that wants a player that could immediately be one of the deadliest and most unique defensive weapons in the game, Jordan is the guy.
Jordan’s greatest asset is his unheard of combination of size, speed, and strength. His first step is as explosive as any in college football, and though he has a relatively slow stride, it’s so long that he can clear huge patches of grass in just a few steps. Combining that long stride with his fast get off from the snap, he can get behind a tackle with startling quickness. When lined up in the seven or nine technique, he has a deadly bull rush that shows a lot more power than someone with his lanky frame should have. If he gets up to maybe 250-255 pounds of functional weight, he could turn into a load that few tackles can handle.
One thing I didn’t like about his pass rush, however, was how relatively bland it is. His most used method by far was the speed rush, but it was a very watered down version. Generally he would simply open his shoulders towards the tackle while clubbing with his outside arm to try to avoid the block all together; with his speed and quickness, it worked for him a lot, but I rarely if ever saw him do a complementary action with his inside arm after the club. He never used his long arms to jab a tackle before the punch, he never ripped through a block to take a tighter path to the quarterback, he never threw down a swim move after a well-placed club, and he almost never countered inside if his original move got beat. It was pretty much speed rush or bust, which was very disappointing to me. He has the athleticism to make tackles cheat their feet pre-snap anyway; he might as well take advantage of it with solid hand usage and counter moves inside. I’m sure his NFL coaches will make a concerted effort to improve his hands and develop him into a more well-rounded pass rusher, but I’ll admit that it bugged me a lot to see so many sacks go unregistered because he didn’t have a bull-jerk, counter spin, or outside-in jab step in his repertoire. He’s got the foundation. Now he just needs to build on top of it.
Against the run, Jordan might be the best outside linebacker/Leo prospect in this class. His tree trunk arms are one of his best assets, and he never failed to use them to make an offensive lineman's life miserable. It was extraordinarily difficult for tackles to get a clean block on the edge simply because they couldn’t really reach him, let alone drive him out of a lane. His pure strength showed itself on tape frequently against pulling guards and fullbacks. After the first twenty minutes or so of watching Jordan literally toss Stanford linemen aside like rag dolls, I scratched out any concerns I had about his power and physicality. Something I really liked was the conscious effort he made to get as low or lower than blockers that were five to six inches shorter than him as he met them in the hole. He had a good understanding of leverage, always tried to stay square, and kept his pad level as low as possible to avoid getting kicked out by prototypical coke machine fullbacks. At times he overcompensated a bit and bent too far forward when trying to plug a gap, which led to a few more pancake blocks than I liked to see, but I’ll certainly take that any day over playing too high and getting blasted out of a lane.
Beyond pass rushing and run stopping ability, Jordan has something that most 3-4 linebackers do not, and that’s coverage ability. In the ever-escalating arms race between offense and defense, Jordan is the mismatch to all the mismatches. You can line him up in press coverage against any shifty joker tight ends of the league and watch him just beat up people at the line of scrimmage, or he can play off and shut down any of the 6’6" seam route behemoths with his foot work, fluid hips, and deep speed. Dion Jordan is a guy that gives you options because he not only can cover an offense’s greatest weapon, but he can become a weapon himself.
Let’s say Jordan is playing Sam linebacker in a 3-4. The offense brings out a three receiver set, and rather than responding with a nickel package, the defense simply sticks Jordan on a receiver. With his size and physicality, he could jam and knock any stereotypically small slot receiver off the line to disrupt timing routes, but he also has the feet, speed, and length to contain a five yard slant over the middle if he plays off. Even more intriguing would be the blitzes that could be born from this kind of versatility. If Jordan can keep up with a hot receiver in man coverage and take away the quick safety valve route, what’s stopping the defense from ramming the inside linebackers down the quarterback's throat with dog blitzes all day long? As soon as a base package becomes viable as a nickel package, defenses don't have to worry about matching subs against no huddle offenses and can just concentrate on their assignments. Even in a zone based scheme, if Jordan is playing a pseudo nickel corner position, could anyone say there is a running back in the entire league that could pick up a 6’7" 250 pound blitzer coming full steam from out wide on a zone fire? Probably not, and if I’m an offensive coordinator, I would rather not find out.
There are so many things that can be done with Dion Jordan in just about any scheme in the league. 4-3 Sam, 3-4 Sam, 3-4 Will, defensive end - whatever his future team wants to do with him, he can probably excel at it. He needs to become a more versatile pass rusher, improve his play recognition, be more reactive than proactive in man coverage, and stop guessing at the direction of receivers' releases, but the raw talent and potential here is simply staggering. With the right coaching, Dion Jordan could become a blueprint that not only redefines a position, but allows defenses to evolve their entire methodology. He’s not just good, he’s special.