The trend in the NFL is moving toward more athletic but less physical pass rushers. We've seen it with Clay Matthews over the last few years.
Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan was used similarly to how Matthews has been used in Green Bay over the last four years. The Packers set Matthews up, running him in stunts and delay, looking to get him angled toward the passer with only one blocker in his way.
While Matthews understandably has progressed quite a bit since being drafted in the later part of the first round, Jordan looks a bit more raw than Matthews did, and he doesn't play with much strength (fun 2009 NFL Draft trivia, Baltimore traded up with New England for that pick and drafted Michael Oher, the Patriots then traded that pick to Green Bay, who took Matthews. New England gave up that first round pick and got the Packers' second round pick and two third round picks. They used the second round pick on Darius Butler, a cornerback whom they cut two years later. One of the third round picks they used on Brandon Tate, the receiver they drafted one pick ahead of Mike Wallace. So the Patriots could have had either Clay Matthews or Mike Wallace in 2009, and passed on both of them. Yet I digress).
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My first thought was he looks like a skinnier, considerably taller James Harrison in his pre-snap set. Harrison will never be accused of having prototypical technique, and oddly enough, they both seem to hit ball carriers with their chests as opposed to wrapping up.
You'll hear the term "heavy hands" associated with defensive front seven players. It's referring to a player's ability to punch at a blocker and gain leverage over him. When that prospect hits someone, the movement that player makes (less or none is ideal) backward is a big advantage. So if a player has heavy hands, they can stop a potential blocker where he is, or even move him back.
Jordan does not have heavy hands. That's a concern.
Another part of him that stands out is his temperment. He shares a similar low profile approach to each play to Harrison. He hustles and works hard but he doesn't have much enthusiasm. Few can argue with Oregon's overall defensive success but it wasn't a group that showed much emotion after making big plays. Jordan seemed to be at the center of that.
It's definitely unfair to make a broad generalization that he doesn't love to play the game, but his lack of emotion sometimes makes me wonder if he does. He gives teammates who make plays a pat on the helmet, and it's never as if he's not playing hard, he just doesn't seem to have a level of fire and passion common among playmakers.
As far as the Steelers go, Jordan would struggle to get on the field right away, but could be an interesting weapon on third downs. He is very athletic, perhaps the most athletic of the group of DE/OLB combo players likely to be taken in the first round this year, but like them as well, they're much more athlete than football player.
The comparison to Matthews comes largely in the lack of ability to simply bowl over a tackle or really set the edge in run support. To credit both of them, though, they are relentless, and even if they can't claim to be the best all-around players at their position, that first step and that athleticism can collapse a pocket in a hurry. They require a tackle to play an extremely disciplined game.
Jordan didn't have a solid counter-move; he went to the tackle's outside shoulder nearly 100 percent of his snaps, and the sack he got was when WSU left a running back to block him.
He looks great in coverage, though. They had him on a receiver outside the slot on one play, and looks like he will defend in the hook to curl quite well.