Cameron Jordan came into this season having finally established himself as one of the elite players at the defensive end spot. With 10.0 sacks and five tackles for loss in 2015, Jordan proved to everyone that he can perform at the highest level, despite playing on one of the worst defenses in the league.
The front office made several changes to the front seven during the offseason by acquiring guys like Nick Fairley, Sheldon Rankins, Craig Robertson, and Nate Stupar - and one of the goals for Jordan had to be to develop chemistry with his new teammates to try and fix the lack of pass rush and pressure at the line of scrimmage from 2015.
What we got in 2016
Jordan had a fantastic year in 2015, but he managed to top himself in 2016. Like previous years, he consistently pressured opposing quarterbacks and finished the year with a team-leading 7.5 sacks. And while that was a step down from his 10.0 sack total, it was more so a result of him sharing the sacks with guys like Fairley, Rankins, and Dannell Ellerbe.
The big improvement in Jordan's game was in run defense. Jordan has been an above average run defender for years, but he took it to a whole new level in 2016. He was constantly beating his man on the right side of the offensive line and it showed in his statistics, as he ended the year with 11 tackles for loss, which is tied for second in the league. This is a massive improvement over his five tackles for loss in 2015 and three in 2014.
Jordan was without a doubt the best defender on the slightly improved New Orleans Saints defense, but to really see just how good Jordan was, let's take a look at the rankings provided by Pro Football Focus.
Versus all other edge defenders in the league, Jordan ranked third, beating guys like Chandler Jones, Von Miller, and Melvin Ingram. This just shows how impressive Jordan’s 2016 season was, despite his lacks of sacks.
So, what does this mean going forward?
The Saints have one of the best defensive linemen in Jordan, and they need him to rebuild their defense. Jordan has shown that he can perform no matter the state of the defense, but also that he performs extremely well with a great pass rusher opposite of himself. We saw that in 2013, where Jordan and ex-Saints lineman Junior Galette had 24.5 combined sacks (Jordan: 12.5, Galette; 12). Therefore, the Saints need to get another pass rusher, to pair up with Jordan, to help take some pressure off of him and thereby help him get to the quarterback even more that he already is.
Cam Jordan will be Cam Jordan for several years, and the Saints need to build a solid defense around him. Yes, they need great players capable of changing the defense, but they might not need a superstar. They already have one in Jordan.