Film Study on Saints DE Cam Jordan, Emerging Star
Going into this season it became clear that if the Saints were to field a passable defense Cameron Jordan needed to be great.
As outside linebackers and defensive linemen fell one after another to injury, the weight of expectations rose for Jordan. Without Victor Butler, without Will Smith, without Brodrick Bunkley, and now without Tom Johnson, the bulk of our quarterback pressure was going to come from Jordan and Junior Galette.
Through two games, Jordan has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.
Pro Football Focus has him rated only behind JJ Watt. He’s the second best 3-4 defensive lineman in football (and by their analysis, Jordan had the best week of any 3-4 end in Week 2).
The Saints defense, albeit in a very small sample size, has proved to be more than passable. In fact, our eighth-ranked unit has arguably won us each of the first two games. It’s ranked twelfth in total yards and is tied for sixth in scoring defense.
With all this in mind, we decided to return to the film and pick out a few representative plays that demonstrate Cam Jordan’s dominance in Week 2.
1st Quarter — 9:00 remaining — 3rd and 7
This is the first long third down of the game and, as the announcers are always keen to remind us, this is when the Rob Ryan likes to “dial up the pressure” and use “exotic blitzes.” There are no down linemen, but instead four guys standing on the left side, with Akiem Hicks lined up over center and Jordan alone on the far right to face the RT and RG. In a flash, he swim-moves and jukes both of them. That’s a sick move.
While Cam only has one sack for the season so far, PFF has him with 12 quarterback disruptions. This play is such a disruption. It results in Freeman firing the ball out to a well-covered receiver in the flats, and in a Tampa punt.
1st Quarter – 6:11 remaining — 2nd and 9
Saints line up with four down lineman with Jordan set to the far left (7 gap), against the Tampa tight end, Stocker (88).
Wait. Against a tight end?
Really, Tampa? Okay.
It doesn’t take Cam long to take care of Stocker. Cam starts with an outside step, pushing Stocker backwards and out of his way. Cam then steps inside of him and zooms after Josh Freeman to force an incomplete pass.
I mean really. A tight end?
3rd Quarter — 12:41 remaining — 1st and 10
The Saints start out in what looks like an over-shifted 4-3. Cam is actually lined up at nose tackle. The tight end comes in motion, changing the weak side of the offense into the strong side of the offense, and so the Saints’ linemen move over to maintain their over-shift.
That’s right. Cameron Jordan seems to be as good at playing anti-run defensive tackle as he is at playing wide-7 pass rusher.
3rd Quarter — 11:59 remaining — 3rd and 10
The Saints have the Bucs in another 3rd and long. On this play there are three down linemen, including Cam Jordan in the 5 technique and Junior Galette beside him at outside linebacker. After the snap, Galette stunts inside, leaving Cam one on one with Bucs tackle Donald Penn.
This doesn’t end well for Penn.
Cam beats him with a straight up edge rush, using his speed to get around Penn’s outside shoulder and then using his leverage and strength to push past him, swatting the ball from Freeman’s hand, forcing a fumble that Galette picks up and returns for ten yards.
Cameron Jordan Can Do Everything
These four plays show Cam Jordan excelling at almost everything a defensive linemen can be asked to do. He causes pressure with an outstanding inside pass rush move. He uses his speed to hurry the quarterback as a wide defensive end. He plays defensive tackle, eating blockers to allow linebackers to make plays. And he owns a left tackle with straight up, old-fashioned defensive end play.
It sounds almost insane to say the Saints have a defensive lineman who compares to the likes of JJ Watt, but, while Cam Jordan probably won’t have more than 20 sacks this year, he is working his way into that top tier.
For the first time in a long time, the Saints defense has a legitimate weapon.
Cam Jordan image via Carey Bodenheimer