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Imagine the possibilities. Cameron Wake coming in hard from one side, Dion Jordan doing the same from the other side, Olivier Vernon picking the perfect crease to burst through and Jared Odrick or Randy Starks causing havoc up the middle.
That’s what you call rush hour.
The Dolphins, it appears, finally have the makings of a pass rush that no longer relies on one player, no longer is lacking explosive talent. If things progress as I think they could, if Jordan is as good as advertised and if Vernon is as improved as we hear, then a rendezvous at the quarterback may prove to be a regular occurrence for the Dolphins defense.
A year ago, there was Wake. Plenty of Wake. From every angle. In every situation. All told, 15 times a quarterback got caught in this impressive Wake. But the excitement of that has to be tempered by one glaring statistic: Wake’s 15 sacks were more than all of the other defensive linemen combined.
“You can’t just have one dominant pass rusher,” said tackle Starks. “That’s doesn’t cut it in this league.”
When you consider the caliber of four of the quarterbacks the Dolphins will be facing in the first five games – Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco — it quickly becomes apparent that a dominant pass rush is more a necessity than a luxury.
That Wake will consistently be blocked by two players, sometimes even three, is a given. More than anything else, it just adds to the importance of getting help from the other side and that means Vernon and/or Jordan.
I remember when Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong gave the Dolphins an impressive two-pronged pass rush – they combined for 31 sacks in 2000, Then, for a short period, there was Taylor and Joey Porter. And then Wake and Taylor.
But after last season, after evaluating the hurries and the pressures and the knockdowns and the final statistics, it became apparent that more of the same simply wouldn’t suffice.
This is why the spotlight could not be shining any brighter on Vernon and Jordan. This is why there is a real sense or urgency in this training camp to get both players ready to produce. And this is why the Dolphins used the third overall pick in the draft to bring in, at least on paper, the best pass rusher in the draft. Could the commitment be any greater than that? Any more resounding? Could the message be any clearer?
So what should we realistically expect from Jordan this season? I fully expect to see Jordan thrown into the mix of pass rushers who see plenty of action. The upside is too great, the talent too imposing. Whether he begins as a situational player or in the regular rotation depends a lot on how he performs in the preseason. Either way, the highest drafted defensive player in team history will be a factor as a rookie.
Held out of early drills because he was recovering from a shoulder injury, Jordan will be expected to turn it up a notch as the preseason games begin. I can’t wait to see this kid in action. Can’t wait to see that 6-foot-7 frame take aim at the opposing quarterback. The talent is there. The desire is there. Now, we get to sit back and watch how it all comes together.
“I’m going to push myself as hard as I can to be the type of player I know I can be,” said Jordan. “I’ve worked a long time for this and I’m determined to make the most of this chance.”
Vernon, meanwhile, no longer looks like a rookie or acts like one. Insiders tell me he may just be the most improved player on the team. He worked all off season on his strength, his agility, his spin move, you name it. The 3 l/2 sacks he compiled as a rookie got our attention, but not our unyielding respect. He has to take his game to another level for that to happen.
“He’s so hungry,” Wake says of Vernon. “You can see that in everything he does. He’s a smallish defensive end so he can’t go in there timid. The game is not for the meek or mild. He understands this. It’s that pit bull mentality I see a big upside and a player who can help make my life easier.”
Where exactly Vernon lines up depends a lot on Jordan’s rate of improvement. The obvious goal is to get Wake, Vernon and Jordan on the field together. When is the last time the Dolphins have had a pass rushing trio with this much of an upside?
But it all starts with Wake, a player who now comfortably resides among the elite pass rushers in the league. “Truthfully,” said Odrick. “Cam Wake is unblockable. He is limitless. But now he’s getting help. We’ve got a lot of guys on this defense now who can really get after it.”
Indeed they do. I’m anxious to see it all come together this preseason, to see how Jordan fits in, how Vernon takes off, how well the young linebackers do their part and to see who else from this roster can possibly make a difference.
Yes, it’s rush hour for the Miami Dolphins. Fasten your seatbelts; it could turn out to be quite a ride.
Check back Monday at 6 a.m. for the start of a new week of A.C. In the A.M.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.