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Film Room: Is Michael Jordan better at guard or center?

Comparing Michael Jordan’s performance as a center in 2018 and a guard in 2017.

NCAA Football: Army at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s talk about Michael Jordan.

No, not the famous actor from Creed and Black Panther or even the famous actor from Space Jam. This Michael Jordan was one of the Bengals’ fourth-round picks in 2019.

Jordan probably first caught the Bengals’ eye when the team scouted 2018 first-Round pick Billy Price. The two played right next two each other on the Ohio State offensive line in 2017, with Price at center and Jordan at left guard. When Price left, Jordan slid into his role as center for the 2018 season.

Because Jordan is more likely to see the field as a guard in Cincinnati and many people believe that he played better as a guard than he did as a center, I evaluated film on Jordan from both 2017 and 2018.

Let’s take a look.

Pass Blocking

In 2018 Jordan had frequent issues with his ability to anchor, or hold his ground in pass protection. This problem was particularly bad when he faced a head up nose tackle (0-technique) who utilized a power pass rush.

In this clip, he is the center and gets bull-rushed straight into the backfield causing quarterback Dwayne Haskins to have to scramble which, regardless of what Stephen A. Smith says, is not how Haskins makes plays. This happened to Jordan too often in 2018, and although it did not lead to a ton of sacks, the quarterback often had to move in the pocket or was not able to step into a pass as a result.

Jordan has a lot of issues with his lower body. He plays too high and needs to squat down to lower his center of gravity. He also has a tendency to stop his feet and let them get too wide. These are fixable issues, and ones that offensive line coach Jim Turner will need to help him work on.

At left guard in 2017, Jordan showed some very good things in pass protection. At the guard position he never faced a head up defender and primarily blocked players who were lined up shaded into the A gap to his inside or the B gap to his outside.

In the clip below, Jordan steps down into the A gap to block the pass rusher. When the defender crosses his face into the B gap, Jordan stays with him. His feet are excellent on this play as he slides to stay in front of the defender. He also does a great job of resetting his hands as the pass rusher moves.

This is another 2017 clip of Jordan in pass protection. Here, the defender crosses his face from the B-gap into the A-gap. Jordan engages, but as the defender spins back to the outside, Jordan is able to adjust well. He sits his butt back and slides to the outside, taking away the defender’s pass rush lane. This is an excellent display of balance and footwork by Jordan.

Once again at left guard in 2017, Jordan faces a similar challenge from a defensive tackle twist. This is a half man/half slide protection with the left side in man protection and the rest of the offensive line sliding to the right. Jordan is the left guard and is responsible for the 3-technique.

As he stunts into the A-gap, Jordan steps down to protect the gap. He has his eyes up and is able to see that the 1-technique has looped around to the left. Jordan passes the 3-technique off to Price and slides back to the left to pick up the looping defensive tackle.

This is an awesome job of not only seeing the defensive stunt, but understanding the adjustment that was required in the protection.

Run Blocking

Jordan shows excellent strength as a run blocker. Here at center in 2018, he is able to drive the nose tackle back two yards, before knocking him down to create a seam for the J.K. Dobbins touchdown run. Jordan engages with the defender and rolls his hips through for power. Once he gets his feet moving, he is able to drive the defender back. He has the strength to get movement in the run game and open up rushing lanes for Joe Mixon and company.

Jordan has an excellent feel for coming off of double team blocks. Here, he is lined up at left guard in this clip from 2017. It is a midline play where quarterback J.T. Barrett is reading 4i lineman inside of the left tackle.

Jordan is responsible for the middle linebacker, but first needs to help Price get the 0-technique out of the gap. He executes this perfectly and comes off to the line backer just in the nick of time, to open up the hole for Dobbins.

With Jordan at center in 2018, the Buckeyes ran a wide zone play to the left. He started on a path towards a combo block on the play side defensive tackle. When the backside linebacker blitzed the A gap, Jordan almost instinctively came off to pick him up.

Jordan can struggle in space at times. This 2018 clip of him at center shows him climbing to the second level, but failing to make the block. He often takes angles that lead him to be just slightly out of position.

Popular opinion is that Jordan is a much better at guard than he is at center and at least in pass protection the film supports it. Jordan has a problem with his anchor, particularly against head up bull rushers, but when he lines up at guard, he does not see that. He has very good balance, footwork, and hands which helps him to adjust to twists, stunts, and speed pass rush moves. He also appears to have a strong understanding of pass protections and sees the adjustments that need to be made during the play.

Jordan is a good run blocker from the guard or center position. He is adept at coming off of double teams at the right time, but can get beat by the speed of a flowing linebacker. Overall, his mental processing and athletic ability are his strongest attributes as a pass blocker. As a run blocker, he is very good at combo blocks, but struggles to get into position on linebackers when the ball is run wide.

As a rookie, Jordan is unlikely to see the field at either position, but with more development, he could be an asset for years to come.