For the second time in five years, Dion Jordan could be described as being a very intriguing NFL prospect.
Back in 2013, the University of Oregon standout was a physical specimen who would eventually become the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft. Five years later, Jordan has gone from wearing the label of first-round bust to being suspended for an entire season to battling multiple injuries to once against being viewed, as he was half a decade ago, as a pass rusher with a lot of upside.
After making his return to the NFL with the Seahawks midway through the 2017 season, Jordan recorded 4.0 sacks in five games, one more than he had in his career prior to this season. And given his long layoff from playing football—due to both suspensions and injuries, Jordan missed all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons and the first eight games in 2017—both he and the Seahawks feel like he is just scratching the surface of what he can become.
"He can be a legitimate factor," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "How good? I don't know, I don't know that, but I do know he should be a legitimate factor in the (pass) rush and in the run game. He's a good pursuit guy, too. He is strong and big and all that. He just has a really unproven background and there is not much to go on there, so we're having to piece it together with the few plays that we've got. But he made some real positive overtures and he's an exciting prospect for us. Really exciting prospect."
There's plenty the Seahawks and their fans would like to change about the 2017 season, most notably the many factors that went into their missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011. But there were also a number of bright spots, coming both from obvious sources—star players like linebacker Bobby Wagner, safety Earl Thomas, quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin all had outstanding seasons—and from places people might not have been expecting heading into the year. Whether it was safety Bradley McDougald thriving in a starting role, or Justin Coleman grabbing ahold of the nickel corner spot and playing very well there all season, or perhaps most unexpectedly, Jordan becoming one of the team's more productive pass rushers down the stretch, the Seahawks got significant contributions from a lot of newcomers this season, particularly on defense.
At 27, it's a little bit odd to hear Jordan referred to as a "really exciting prospect" in the NFL—that's usually an age at which a player is in his prime—but because he came into this season having missed so much time, it's understandable that he and the Seahawks are both excited about what he can do going forward.
"Over the last few weeks, I just started to feel like myself again," Jordan said. "I just started to understand what they needed from me here, and it just started to expand more and more."
Added Carroll: "He was highly, highly regarded coming out of college for the right reasons. He just had three years of torment trying to get back to the game. The time he has been with us, he was just a remarkable example of diligence and grit and willpower and all of that, and when he made it back, it took him a little while to kind of knock the rust off. It took him a little while. And he is still coming, he is just getting started. He's a brand new player coming up, and the opportunity now to be in this off season healthy—he's healthy coming out of the season, so he can work hard to develop and get better—is really positive. We don't know what the limit is, but we are really excited about it."
Jordan's teammates are equally interested to see in what kind of player Jordan can be with a healthy offseason under his belt.
"He was, what the third pick in the draft?" defensive end Frank Clark said. "I think he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in this league. He showed what he can do coming off of serious injuries, and that was just a little bit. He just showed a little bit. So imagine what he can give you in the full 16 (games), healthy with a full offseason to train—football training, not rehab. I'm just curious to see what he's going to do next year."
Jordan's struggles, from how he failed to properly handle everything that came with being the No. 3 pick to substance abuse to injuries have been well documented, but as bleak as things looked for him at times, he never gave up on the idea that he could still enjoy a productive NFL career.
"I definitely could still picture it," Jordan said a day after the season came to an end. "It all depended on what I wanted, how hard I worked. The opportunity to play for the Seahawks and be in this locker room just added that much more to it."
Jordan credits the culture Carroll has helped build in Seattle as an important part of his comeback—as a recent Sports Illustrated profile noted, Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable as well as former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch influenced Jordan's decision to sign with Seattle—and that fit he has found with the Seahawks is a big reason why he hopes to return next season. And to hear Carroll talk about Jordan, who will be a restricted free agent, it certainly sounds like the defensive end is in their plans.
While looking ahead to the future during his year-end press conference, Carroll talked about "a bunch of guys in the defensive line that I'm excited about," and the first player he mentioned was Jordan.
"We've got issues to try to return guys, but Dion Jordan had a marvelous turnaround and showed an impact that could be really instrumental," Carroll said.
Five years after being the No. 3 pick in the draft, Jordan is once again a "really exciting prospect," but this time around, he's much better prepared to handle those expectations.
"It was huge for me," Jordan said of his comeback season with the Seahawks. "Just proving that all my hard work paid off. It was great to be able to do it with the players who I had the opportunity to play with this season. I'm excited about what's next."
Take a look at some of the best game-action photos captured during the 2017 season.