INDIANAPOLIS — When Dion Jordan arrived at Oregon, he envisioned himself being a major contributor in Chip Kelly’s offense.
But things don’t always work out according to plan.
The Ducks ended up moving Jordan (6-6 1/2, 248) to defense. And after two seasons as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, he now finds himself on the cusp of being a first-round pick.
“I imagined myself running down the field, catching a bomb from Darron Thomas or [Marcus] Mariota, but things didn’t work out that way,” Jordan said. “You’ve got to adjust. I adjusted, and I took it and ran with it.
“I understood that was the best opportunity for me to get on the football field. Coach Kelly and my position coach, Coach [Jerry] Azzinaro, they had a plan for me, and I stuck with it. Things worked out for the best for me.”
There was a time when being a “tweener” would be viewed as a negative. But those days are over. Teams want safeties that can play center-field or come up in the box. And linebackers who can rush the passer and also cover tight ends.
In that respect, Jordan has a lot of appeal. He’s lined up all over the line, rushed the passer and spent a lot of time in coverage, including on slot receivers.
Asked if there’s one thing he wants to hang his hat on at the next level, Jordan said, “Pass rush. I feel like me lining up all over the field on defense just shows my athleticism, shows that I understand the game.
“But my whole thing is getting after quarterbacks, and pass-rushing. That’s my number one.”
The news out of Indianapolis is that Jordan is scheduled to have shoulder (labrum) surgery next week and is facing a three-to-four month rehab stint. He sustained the injury attempting an arm tackle during a 70-14 win over Colorado on Oct. 27, but still played in five games the rest of the way.
“I’ve dealt with it,” he said. “I only missed one game last season. I feel like it shows my toughness. I finished the season. I stayed through with my team. And I made sure as a leader, and as a senior of our team, it shows that I’m willing to win and do what it takes to compete.”
Kelly echoed those sentiments, saying Jordan had a special place in his heart.
“I think Dion’s a special player. But he’s a special player not because of his physical qualities, but because of his intangible qualities,” Kelly said.
Jordan’s projected rehab stint would likely keep him out until training camp. Then again, the team that selects him will probably be banking on his long-term upside anyway.
“I kind of like Dion Jordan who I think is two years away from being an Aldon Smith-type player,” said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. “He’s got frightening athletic skills, and he’s a year away. He would be a situational pass-rusher year one, and if he puts 20 pounds on, I think he’s going to be a perennial All-Pro. I really like the kid. But, again, that’s a little bit of a risk – reward. You’re betting on this kid two years from now.”
Jordan said a lot of teams are projecting him to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He said he knows he needs to add more weight to his frame, but thinks he can play effectively at 250.
As of this afternoon’s interview, Jordan had not yet met with Kelly. But the Eagles’ head coach acknowledged that he doesn’t have to do much homework on the players who were with him at Oregon.
“I would think it would be an advantage, because we know ‘em,” Kelly said. “I can tell you what they’re like on the field, I can tell you what they’re like off the field, I can tell you what they’re like in the meeting room.”
The Eagles will have a lot options with the No. 4 pick. If they believe in Jordan’s upside, he could find himself once again under the wing of Kelly and Azzinaro.
“If that happens, then I’ll be glad to show up in Philly and do my best there,” he said. “But I’m not in control of that.”