SB Nation recently teamed up with Football Outsiders to have each respective NFL team ask several questions regarding their team. For the New Orleans Saints, Andrew Potter gave us his insight around Cameron Jordan, who tends to be a very underrated presence across the league at defensive end. Make sure and check out the 2017 Football Outsiders Almanac.
Cam Jordan tends to not get enough credit when mentioning the upper tier of defensive ends, where do you see him making the biggest impacts that don’t show up on a stat sheet?
Jordan has been the best, most consistent player on the Saints defense for most of his career, and it isn’t particularly close. For starters, he hasn’t missed a start since his debut in Week 1 of 2011, has played over 90% of defensive snaps every year we have numbers for (2012 onwards), and hasn’t ranked lower than sixth in percentage of snaps played by a defensive lineman in any individual season. He’s never been seriously injured, and has consistently played well despite an overall workload higher than any other defensive lineman in the league over that period.
He’s also versatile, having seen snaps at either defensive end spot, as a defensive tackle in passing situations, and even as a stand-up middle linebacker on package plays. He succeeds everywhere: in 2016, Jordan led the team in total defeats (25, nine more than second-place Kenny Vaccaro), pass defeats (11, tied with Sterling Moore), run defeats (14, almost twice as many as second-place Craig Robertson), quarterback hits (19), and sacks (7.0), and ranked second in run stop rate (83%, behind nose tackle Tyeler Davison). Among all players, not just defensive ends, he ranks in the top 20 in total defeats, top 10 in run defeats, and is tied for fifth in quarterback hits.
So where is his biggest impact that doesn’t show up on a traditional stat sheet? I hope it isn’t considered lazy for me to say “everywhere”. He is one of the few true every-down, every-situation players. Offenses literally need to account for him on every snap, as a run defender or a pass defender. Among NFL defensive ends, he was involved in the fifth-highest percentage of his team’s total defensive plays (tackles, pass deflections, etc.). He doesn’t always have eye-popping traditional statistics, and his reputation is undoubtedly harmed by the overall state of the Saints defense, but any time that defense does anything positive there’s a good chance Jordan is involved.
Entering his 7th NFL season, Jordan is clearly motivated to help Dennis Allen’s defense become better any way that he can. In recent training camp interviews, Jordan was quoted as saying that he wants the defensive line to be the ‘tip of the spear’ for the Saints. He also said that the way he plays sets the tone for the entire defense. With his 46.5 career sacks, Jordan sits as the franchise’s 9th all-time sack leader. He needs just 6.5 this season to take over 5th place (Frank Warren - 52.5).