Determining the New Orleans Saints’ core players moving forward

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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

DE Cameron Jordan

The number of New Orleans Saints fans who cried out against the Saints for re-signing former Pro-Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan was at once not surprising, and a little disappointing. Let me make this clear — Cameron Jordan is the Saints’ best defender and has been for a few years. Period. Jordan never has been, and never will be the ‘splash play’ guy who makes huge highlight-reel plays. He’s an effective pass rusher who rarely loses, but also will never be considered a dominant rush end in this league. Because fans fall in love with sacks and highlight-reel plays so easily (really…who doesn’t like those?), it is easy to forget what a rare player Jordan is.

Jordan isn’t a one-trick pony in either direction, but a complete football player who is highly effective in all aspects of his game. What makes Jordan special, and a true core building block for this team is that he is effective in every alignment, position, and situation that a defensive linemen can be. He certainly is better at some things than others. He isn’t J.J. Watt, but he does have similar attributes (just on a little bit lower of a level). Jordan is capable of being a designated pass rusher as his combination of moves is polished and his size and quickness make him a tough matchup for both guards and tackles. Jordan is one of the league leaders in pressures and has one of the highest grades of any defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus (for those who use it). At the worst, Jordan is effective, and that is something very few players in this league can say. Consistency is one of the hardest things to accomplish in professional sports, and Cam has that.

He isn’t just a pass rusher though, Jordan is borderline dominant against the run and teams will often ignore his side preferring to go the other way rather than risk a tackle in the backfield. The ability to do both means that Jordan never needs to come off the field because of ‘fit’, only injury or a quick breather will take him off, and his consistency extends beyond just scheme, but to availability as well. Cam Jordan has never missed a game in his NFL career. For a position that requires as much contact as his, the durability he has displayed is very valuable. Being available is one of the most valuable skills a pro can have (just look at Dannell Ellerbe), but it’s not what truly makes Jordan the building block for this defense’s future. His versatility is.

Jordan’s rare skill set allows him to be effective, and even disruptive, from anywhere along the line. This means that whether the team chooses to run a 3-4, a 4-3, or a hybrid of the two, Cam Jordan will always be ready. This gives the organization not only tremendous flexibility in building around Jordan, but also in how they deploy the pieces they have. When you have someone who can attack from inside, outside, and draw attention to free up teammates, you have what is called a ‘complete player’. Cameron Jordan may not have all the flash and sizzle of a Junior Galette, but what he has is something far more valuable: no real weaknesses.

Next: Delvin Breaux