10 New Orleans Saints who must make an impact in 2015: No. 5, Cam Jordan


As much talk as there was about the New Orleans Saints having a fire sale and getting ready for the post Drew Brees era this offseason, they still made a handful of moves. Outside of big name signings like Brandon Browner and C.J. Spiller (more on him later) the Saints also invested money in keeping their own players. The signing of Mark Ingram was important because he has shown himself to be a decent back finally, and it’s at a good number. On the other hand, I don’t believe Mark will truly be a difference maker or a game changer for the Saints…this next guy will though.


Cam Jordan is one of the guys I had to talk myself out of putting at the top of this list. A ton of fans were on his case really hard last year, and he did have a down year relative to his 2013 campaign, however, we need to learn to look at more than just a players sack total. When I went back and rewatched the tape from last season (oh the agony!), one of the things I noticed was Jordan was one of two players the opposing teams were really targeting. The other was Corey White/Patrick Robinson/Terrence Frederick, because they were awful. Teams saw the way he played in 2013 and came to the conclusion that if they neutralized him, it had a significant impact on the defense as a whole. Junior Gallette might be the team’s most explosive pass rusher, but Cam Jordan was by far their most complete.

He was repeatedly (although not constantly) double teamed which is normally a good thing, it gives your other rushers a one-on-one matchup. However, the problem was that the Saints other rushers could mostly be eliminated even when they were being blocked one-on-one. Jordan was actually able to beat the double teams with a relative amount of frequency, it didn’t manifest itself in nearly as many sacks as it could have because quarterbacks were getting rid of the ball so quickly that often times Jordan would just work himself free, only to watch the ball sail into the open arms of the receiver.

That isn’t to say that now that the team (hopefully) has a competent secondary that Jordan is going to morph into JJ Watt. It’s to say that there is a lot more that goes into a game than how the stat sheet looks at the end of the day. Football is a complex and interconnected game, and because of that, it is incredibly difficult to ever truly quantify the impact of an individual player except during ‘highlights’. That isn’t to say that sites like PFF don’t do an incredible job and aren’t fantastic resources, they are. It’s just that there is more to it than just the stats.

By this point you are likely rolling your eyes at your screen and muttering something about ‘excuses’. Fair enough, however, before we condemn Cam’s new deal (5- years and nearly $60 million at its peak), it’s important to understand that he actually earned it. Before we get into the impact Jordan NEEDS to have this year for the Saints to contend, let’s look at some of the things he did that earned him the contract in the first place.

First off, the most important statistic that is in his favor is that he has played a total of 48 regular season games, which means Cam Jordan has never missed a game. Getting a flashy player who can make an impact once every two or three games, but who only plays half the season is actually very poor value for a team. One of the single biggest contributors to how a player is valued by both the team and his peers is consistency.

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Jordan has not only consistently been on the field, but has consistently improved each year. Cam has continued to develop an array of pass rush moves and he has done so without sacrificing his run defense. That brings us right into the second reason he got paid: total impact. Jordan never has to leave the field. Cam can be on the field in any situation and actually has enough versatility at 6-foot-4, 287 pounds that he can play virtually anywhere on the line if he needs to and still be effective. Jordan is easily the best run defender the Saints have, and that is actually another reason why he was doubled. Cam is just as likely to blow up a running play as he is to get a sack. The value of that kind of ability shouldn’t be underestimated.

So if his consistency and versatility are the first two reasons he was given his extension then what is the third?  I’m glad you asked. It’s his ceiling. Now earlier I brought up JJ Watt, and why wouldn’t I? Watt is the golden standard for a defensive player in today’s NFL, and in my opinion, is arguably the best defensive lineman since Reggie White (which is borderline blasphemy).  What that has to do with Jordan is that Cam is kind of like a ‘baby JJ’. He doesn’t have nearly the impact that Watt does and isn’t that level of star, but he does have a similar skill set (without the TD’s). What makes Cam Jordan worth the money is what we saw against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.

It was one of the few times where a team just decided to leave him one on one, and Cam ate their lunch all day long. Remember that Pittsburgh was one of the best offenses in the league last year, and for three quarters Cam Jordan was almost single-handedly shutting them down. It isn’t the first time he has done something like that, and it won’t be the last, but what Jordan needs to do is increase the frequency of such outbursts.

That is where we really get out of what he did and into what he needs to do. I expect Cam to be right around double digit sacks this year simply because his opportunities to finish will be more prevalent with the improved coverage (please God let that work out). He needs to improve in that regard and not allow teams to take him out of the game, or at worst, force them to focus so much on him that others get their numbers. What Cam can’t do is disappear for stretches like he did at times last year. We need him at or around his peek the majority of the time (all the time is simply unrealistic).

If, and it is an if Cam Jordan is able to perform at peak level for the majority of his snaps this year, then the impact he will likely have on the team’s fortunes will be noteworthy to say the least.  I personally think it is going to be a bit of both. Cam is a confident guy whose pride was damaged by last year’s debacle. He won’t simply take that lying down. I expect him to come out this year firing on all cylinders and to have the kind of total team impact that players who get paid 60 million bucks are supposed to have. Jordan’s individual impact, on the stat sheet and off, will be solid, but the real story is going to be in how he helps his teammates.

If the Saints want to be contenders in 2015, then Cam Jordan needs to be the guy on the defense that the opposing offense circles on the white board early in the week and game plan around.  If he is able to accomplish that, then the Saints unit may not just be improved — they might be feared. The question is whether ‘Pittsburgh Cam’ is consistent, or just an aberration.

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