With the Saints about to begin their 2016 OTA’s , the competition for a handful of roster positions is about to get cranked up.
One position that will not see much competition however will be at the 5 Technique defensive end spot, where All-Pro Cameron Jordan resides after a near-dominant performance in 2015.
The 21st overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, Jordan has emerged as the defense’s top player within a span of 5 years, and is become one of the “core”” players of the franchise in that time.
Even though he is listed as a defensive end, we have seen that Jordan is able to play anywhere on the line, and in any technique: the 5 (his natural position), the 7, the 9 (also know as the “Jack” or outside edge rusher) and even the 1 and 3 technique defensive tackle positions when called upon.
Perhaps even more importantly, he’s been a “natural born leader” and has led the Saints defensive with determination and physicality, and even when there have been some tough times for the Saints in recent seasons, Jordan has persevered.
Make no mistake about it: Jordan is the “heart and soul” of the Saints defense, and perhaps the entire team.
Now by all accounts, 2015 wasn’t exactly the best of years on defense in the franchise’s now 50-year history; and in fact it was one of THE worst — allowing the most touchdowns than any other defense in NFL history.
However, even with the terrible play of the Saints defense, Jordan has ‘shined through the darkness’, as evidenced when the NFL recently acknowledged Jordan as its 99th best player in the Top 100 players of 2016.
Jordan didn’t place in the Top 100 last year prior to the start of the season, which was not surprising given the 2014 squad’s equally bad performance. So one would imagine that it’s nice to see the League give Jordan the long-overdue recognition that he truly deserves.
Last season was Jordan’s 2nd Pro Bowl of his career, as he had 10 sacks to go with 70 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 5 passes defended, 1 blocked kick, and 45 total tackles.
It was only after Patriots DE Chandler Jones backed out of the contest, that Jordan got the nod; when he was told six days before the game that he was being named to the roster to replace the injured Jones.
January 29, 2016; Kahuku, HI, USA; Hawaiian hostesses Chelsea Hardin (far left) and Mahina Garcia (far right) pose with Team Rice defensive end Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints (94) during 2016 Pro Bowl photo day at Turtle Bay Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Despite being passed up for a spot initially, there can be no doubt that Jordan was qualified and worthy of inclusion, after one of the finest seasons of his brilliant young career thus far.
It was a performance for the ages that Jordan had in a Week #6 contest at home on Thursday Night Football against the Falcons, that sealed his All-Pro status.
Jordan actually moved inside to the 3-Tech defensive tackle in pass-rushing situations, which allowed fellow teammate Kasim Edebali to come off the edge in Jordan’s place – which then resulted in a huge pay off / big reward for the Saints.
Jordan collected 3 of the Saints’ season high 5 sacks, seven quarterback pressures, four quarterback hits and a strip-sack he recovered himself to “ice” that game against the Falcons and QB Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan.
Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates a defensive play against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
That Thursday night game against Atlanta was one of the most spectacular examples of how well Jordan can dominate offensive linemen in the NFC South. Last year alone, Jordan abused several top-notch starting left tackles: Donovan Smith (Buccaneers), Jake Matthews (Falcons), and Michael Oher (Panthers), whom were all listed in the top 22 tackles from 2015 according to Bleacher Report.
Needless to say, when the NFC South goes head-to-head with the Saints defense, although they may not be stricken with fear by the Saints defensive unit as a whole, they still have to plan around Jordan.
But without question it was that performance against the Falcons that solidified Jordan’s status as the Saints defense’s most valuable player, and a testament as to why the Saints consider him to be the “centerpiece” of their defensive unit around going forward.
Sep 20, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates following a sack on Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Buccaneers defeated the Saints 26-19. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Clearly, Jordan will be looking to have yet another Pro Bowl-caliber type season in 2016, and one can only imagine what type of numbers that Jordan could potentially have, now that he has been given some much needed “help” that will be in place around him in 2016.
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Jordan will be bolstered by the presence of a new influx of talent which will include first rounder DT Sheldon Rankins, 5th round end / tackle David Onyemeta, and free agent and former L.A. Rams DT Nick Fairley.
Jordan will be further aided by a returning group of players from last season that includes 2015 second-round pick Hau’oli Kikaha, Kasim Edebali, Obum Gwacham and 2015 fifth-rounder Davis Tull – all of whom are expected to compete on the side opposite of Jordan at the 7 and 9 Technique end positions, respectively.
The bottom line is that there unequivocally is room for improvement with the Saints defensive unit this season, a unit that ended up either at or near the bottom of the league rankings.
But if the Saints and their much-maligned defensive unit are to rebound in 2016, then it will certainly be contingent upon the continued success of one particular individual by the name of Cameron Jordan; the same young man who over the course of time, has become its key component.
And perhaps one day, and hopefully soon — they”ll be improved enough to ride along with the “heart and soul” of that defense, all the way to the Super Bowl…..