During the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins made one of their bigger splashes in recent memory, trading up nine spots to No. 3 overall to nab Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan.
The move surprised many — even those paid to cover the team — because Miami had bigger needs at the time. But pairing Jordan with perennial Pro Bowler Cameron Wake was too tempting of a scenario to pass up. The Dolphins now had two pass-rushing options, giving them the defensive firepower needed to compete in the quarterback-driven AFC.
Or so they thought.
Jordan, despite possessing freakish physical measurables, turned in a roundly disappointing rookie campaign, recording just 26 tackles and two sacks. It got so bad for the former Ducks standout that, by seasons end, he was relegated to special teams duty. You read that correctly: In the coaches’ eyes, he wasn’t even worthy of seeing meaningful snaps on defense.
Optimists claimed it was the worst we’d ever see of Jordan. Pessimists insisted this was a sign of things to come — or lack thereof, if you will. The writing quickly was plastered all over the wall for Jordan, and he knew it.
In the midst of rumors that he might be on the trade block, Jordan attempted to reinvent himself. He began logging more hours at the team facility, impressing new general manager Dennis Hickey. He perfected his already ideal physique, packing on nearly 20 pounds of muscle to aid his transition to outside linebacker.
The results were more than noticeable; Dolphins beat reporter Armando remarked during spring OTAs that it looked like Jordan “took an air pump and plugged it into his arms and shoulders this offseason.”
Not able to hide his gains, Jordan confirmed he beefed up to help conquer his new position.
“I was definitely too light to go out there against some of those offensive tackles,” Jordan said, via the Miami Herald. “This year I had the opportunity to have an offseason where I can take care of my body. I’m trying to move forward and continue to try to better myself in a few areas.”
The lightbulb had finally gone off for Jordan. This was going to be the season he puts it all together and begins playing like a top-five draft pick. Miami’s plan was about to pay off in a major way.
Or so they thought.
On July 3, the NFL suspended Jordan four regular-season games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Common sense points to steroids being the culprit. Jordan, however, insists it’s not, blaming “banned stimulants.”
“I worked carefully with my advisors and the union to investigate the test results, and I take full responsibility for the test results,” Jordan said in a statement.
In the end, semantics don’t matter. Jordan will miss a fourth of the season, severely damaged his already shaky stock, and likely put his future with the club in doubt.
Perhaps most troubling, though, was the utter stupidity he displayed by ingesting something — anything — that could trigger a suspension. Whether it’s steroids, a workout supplement or a combination of the two, the risk far outweighed the reward, and he should’ve known better.
And what was he going to do, plead his innocence? He gained 17 pounds of rock-solid muscle in a years time; that doesn’t tend to occur naturally. Salguero’s “praise” raised immediate red flags, providing a foreshadow of an inevitable transgression.
Following his suspension, Jordan knew his lone recourse was to deny taking steroids. It was the only way he could save a bit of face, though Dolphins’ higher-ups are unlikely to take much solace in that.
With Wake and Olivier Vernon holding down the front seven, Jordan didn’t need to be a superstar to make a sizable impact. He simply needed to be consistent, understand and execute his responsibilities, and use his God-given talent to his advantage.
There aren’t many offensive lineman who can block a 6-foot-6, 260-pound linebacker that possesses a 4.53 forty time — not one-on-one, at least. Jordan, quite literally, is a man amongst men on the field, even if at times he struggles with the mental aspect of the game. There’s a reason he was so highly sought-after following a stellar career at Oregon that included 29 career tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles.
It was evident Jordan could make plays, and the Dolphins fell in love with his potential. Hard to fault them for that. Do they deserve some blame for trying him at outside linebacker, effectively fitting a square peg in a round hole? Maybe, but that’s another story for another day.
The real story lies with the sheer lack of responsibility showed by Jordan, whose seat is hotter than a summer day in South Florida. When he’s eligible to return in Week 5, he’ll be given a chance to prove his worth, but you better believe his leash will be shorter than ever.
This big splash is shaping up as a belly flop.