In sports, few sayings are as old and overused than “Father Time is undefeated.” In fact, it’s a terrible saying because it reminds not only the athlete that their career will one day inevitably come to an end (just ask Drew Brees), but it reminds us of our own fragility. I have played semi-pro level competitive soccer for a good part of my life, and still remember how as a teenager, I would come home bruised and battered after a tough high school game, then play another 90-minute pickup game the very next day with the neighborhood kids without missing a beat. Now, with a few more moons under my belt, it takes me a full week to shake off one of those nasty ankle tackles from opposing teams’ defenders.
Saints’ star defensive end Cam Jordan might be at that point in his NFL career where years of bruising double-teams from opposing offensive linemen and chips from running backs take more time to recover from than they used to. Don’t get me wrong, if Father Time is knocking on Jordan’s door, he is doing so very softly right now, because he knows the Saints’ defensive leader is not quite ready to open said door. Think about this: at age 31, Jordan leads the NFL active players in consecutive games started for defensive ends (145) as well as consecutive games played (160). His passion for the game is apparent not only in his availability game in and game out, it has been on display via the incredible amount of snaps he has played on the Saints’ defense. The table below shows Jordan’s snap counts going back to his sophomore NFL season in 2012.
Cameron Jordan Snap Counts from 2012 to 2020
(Note: * = Pro Bowl selection / + = First-Team All-Pro)
The data shows that Jordan played over 90% of the defensive snaps for the Saints from 2012 to 2017, has been selected to the Pro-Bowl the last four years in a row and was a First-Team All-Pro in 2017. It also shows that since 2018, his snap count rate has steadily declined, from 86% (2018), to 83% (2019) to 78% (2020).
To make matters slightly more worrisome, Jordan’s sack numbers (7.5 in 2020) have plummeted from his career-high 15.5 sacks last season. 7.5 is also his first single-digit sack total since the 2016 season, when he also had 7.5 sacks. This season marked the first time since 2014 that Jordan did not lead the Saints in sacks, an honor that went to Trey Hendrickson, whose sack total was 13.5. Back in 2014, Jordan (7.5) trailed only Junior Galette (10.0) for the team lead.
The 2020 year was not a complete loss for Cam Jordan, far from it. He still provided pressures and tackles for loss for a Saints’ defense that improved as the season went on and eventually became one of the best units to ever take the field in the Sean Payton era. Feast your eyes on the tweet below, which shows that Jordan still had plenty of impact on the Saints’ defense this season.
One of the underrated aspects of Cameron Jordan’s game is his efficiency in the run game, as well as in pursuit of wide receiver reverse plays or quarterback bootlegs. Sacks and quarterback pressures are nice, but Cam Jordan is the total package on the defensive line, and even has “old age” starts taking its toll on his game, he will be an asset for the Saints’ on defense for a few more years.
New Orleans’ task at this stage of Jordan’s career is to surround him with talent that will take double-teams away from him. Re-signing Trey Hendrickson would be a good place to start, as would developing Marcus Davenport to finally produce as the first-round pick that he was. Do that, and Jordan might one day realize his dream of winning a Super Bowl in a Saints uniform.
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