Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan Is a Bad Man!
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Say it...Cameron Jordan...Now breathe...Once more..
Fans and pundits should get used to saying this now because when the season starts you will hear it quite frequently.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan is a flat-out beast! I'm thoroughly convinced he could play any position in any defensive alignment.
His size, quickness and agility is virtually without peer. His power may be only superseded by his non-stop motor. And his versatility begets pressure in the form of sacks and quarterback hurries. He's simply an albatross to offensive lineman and offensive schemes alike.
Jordan had a breakout year in 2012. His 67 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles may have gotten a lot more publicity had it not been for his defense's all-time mark of futility. As a matter of fact, Jordan's play was the lone bright spot on the abyss known as the Saints defense.
Jordan's initial season in the NFL was a complete washout. Most believed he didn't have the ability to play out in space as a 4-3 defensive end with regard to getting to the QB, but his prowess against the run was never in question.
Finishing with 31 tackles and one sack, some were quick to throw around the word "bust" whenever Jordan's name was mentioned. As for me? Well I knew better. Cameron Jordan is a complete football player rather than a sack specialist.
I had the pleasure of watching Jordan in all four of his years at the University of California. Playing under noted defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, Jordan initially played both tackle and end in the 4-3-based alignment.
Playing sparingly as a freshman he barely registered on the Richter scale in regard to production.
A change in philosophy (3-4-based alignment) meshed with a change in position (5-technique), was all he needed to make an immediate impact his sophomore season.
Playing the defensive end in a 3-4 alignment allowed Jordan to hone in on his best attributes, the most of which is power.
At 6'4", 287 pounds, Jordan was similar in size to most interior defenders in the NFL. Being cast as an edge-rusher early in his career allowed him to work in space and develop a quick first step, a first step that makes him nearly indefensible when playing in the "phone booth" that is the interior part of a defensive line.
Coach Gregory's scheme was multiple in fronts, allowing Jordan to impact the game from a multitude of positions. Jordan went from attaining 18 tackles and one sack as a freshman, to collecting 47 tackles, four sacks and one interception as a sophomore. To put it mildly, he had arrived.
Here we have Jordan lined up at a 3-technique. As immense as his power is, his get-off is uncanny for a man his size and really stands out in the interior of the line.
Right away that attribute is apparent as Jordan attacks the inside shoulder of the guard. Quickness is an excellent aspect to have in the interior of the line where double teams are extremely prevalent.
An underrated aspect of Jordan's game is his ability to play with leverage. The angles he can produce at nearly 290 pounds is amazing. When someone that large and powerful gets underneath you it's pretty much curtains!
After beating the guard with quickness, Jordan disposes of the center just as easily with strength. The ability to convert quickness to power is very reminiscent to another interior terror in the NFL. I'll touch on that later...
From here its simply closing speed, something Jordan has plenty of.
The California defense was initially on the scouting watch list due to another defensive lineman that was a potential first-round pick. Tyson Alualu and Jordan formed one of the most intimidating defensive end duos in all of college football.
At 6'3", 295 pounds, Alualu was the quiet leader of Gregory's defensive attack. His 62 tackles and six sacks as a junior was even more impressive than Jordan's aforementioned 2008 output. The move to a 3-4 was beneficial to both of their careers and a precursor for things to come.
Alualu posted similar production as a senior which put him in position to hear his name called in the first round of the 2010 draft.
In a move that shook up that draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Alualu with the 10th overall selection. This was especially unnerving considering the Jaguars at the time ran an even-front scheme.
Undoubtedly inspired by the success of his former college teammate, Cameron Jordan went out and had his finest season as a collegian in 2010.
Finishing with 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks for new coordinator Clancy Pendergast—who coordinated the Super Bowl runners up Arizona Cardinals a couple of seasons earlier—Jordan had designs on being drafted in similar fashion as his former Cal cohort.
The 2011 draft featured some pretty prominent names at the collegiate level. Players like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and Cam Newton are already significant names in NFL circles. This draft also featured the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt.
Going into the draft, Marcell Dareus (Alabama), J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and Jordan were widely considered the best interior defensive linemen available. Coincidentally, all were projected to be 3-4 linemen to truly maximize their potential.
Dareus was considered a can't-miss prospect from his time anchoring the consensus best defense in college football.
Watt was a fast riser as he only had two seasons of major college ball after transferring from Central Michigan where he was a tight end no less!
For my money I believed that Jordan had the chance to be the best of all three. I thought his versatility would be the characteristic that separated the trio. Boy was I wrong!
(Note: I'd be remiss to not mention former Temple star and current New York Jets 5-technique Muhammad Wilkerson in the discussion. I had him rated slightly behind the trio coming into the draft.)
Watt was drafted into a scheme that fit his skill set to perfection. Playing in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense for the Houston Texans, Watt was put in position to make plays early and often.
The Texans version of the 3-4 is slightly different from the traditional two-gap schemes you normally see ran by a team like the San Francisco 49ers. Normally linemen in this scheme are responsible for multiple gaps, so they must initially be in a read and react mode.
In Houston, linemen are responsible for one gap only. Having less responsibility allows for the linemen to shoot the gap in an effort to make plays behind the line. This is the type of system I thought Jordan would be drafted into. Once again, boy was I wrong!
Jordan was drafted into Greg Williams' 4-3 hybrid scheme to be used predominately as an edge-rusher. As effective as Jordan can be playing in space, playing in a 3-4 alignment where he's playing in close quarters fits his skill set best. If Watt was drafted to be an edge-rusher in an even front, he too would be far less effective.
I believe Saints fans are in for a big treat in 2013 with the arrival of Rob Ryan and his 3-4 multiple scheme. The guy who will benefit the most and should back that theory up with production will be Jordan. I predicted this in a piece I penned earlier in the offseason in June.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan will be a nightmare for opposing offenses in the Ryan scheme. His athleticism, intensity and size make for the perfect match at 5-technique defensive end in this defense. Look for him to play all over the line in an attempt to create matchup problems. I believe he's a superstar in the making with similar talent to All-World Houston Texans 5-technique defensive end J.J. Watt.
Of course anytime you make a comparison, people usually think in a short-sighted manner. A comparison like this would not have conjured even an eye-bat just two seasons ago. Saying these guys have similar talent is not a stretch in the least bit, as the majority of fans didn't truly get a taste of how special Watt was until late in his rookie season.
It will be tough for anyone to have the type of season Watt had in 2012 (81 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 16 passes defended—among other things), but I fully expect Cameron Jordan to build upon the highly productive year he had in 2012 for the Saints. This change in scheme couldn't have come at a better time as Jordan has proven he can play in space as well as in the interior.
So get used to plays like this one:
And get used to saying his name...Because Cameron Jordan is a Bad Man!
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