Cameron Jordan is home again. Not in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was born in the summer of 1989, but in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he’s playing extensively in a 3-4 defense like he did in college and 2011.
“The 3-4 is what I ran in college and it’s something similar to (what) we ran with coach Gregg Williams. Hopefully it won’t be that hard to transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. It sounds like what I have been doing,” Jordan said following the hiring of new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
At the University of California, Jordan was a 3-4 defensive end, two-gapping the majority of the time, yet still wrecking havoc because of surprising explosiveness and a relentless motor. Teammate Tyson Alualu and Jordan were the glue of the Golden Bears’ front, and both went on to become first round picks, going top 25 in the 2010 and 2011 NFL drafts. Alualu was unexpectedly drafted in the top 10 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Jordan went No. 24 overall to the New Orleans Saints.
Since being drafted to The Big Easy, Jordan’s been an unheralded but quality player, racking up eight sacks and forcing three fumbles in 2012 after a quiet rookie year. He hasn’t received the notoriety because he’s still young and unproven, lacking the consistency from week-to-week and year-to-year (only because of his inexperience). In the NFL, you only get praise for being very good if you’ve done it for many years or had a startling, record-breaking season. For Jordan, there’s also the factor of the Saints’ defense just being plain bad the last couple of years. When things go sour, no one gets any positive pub.
But the son of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Steve Jordan is expecting to start getting more pub, and he should. He’s been honing his craft and it’s showing. In 79 snaps this preseason, he’s compiled three sacks, four hurries and seven stops, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s raised hell inside and outside of the defensive line, pinning his ears back and racing for the quarterback, which is what Ryan’s defense is designed to do.
“It’s a blitzing, attacking system, which will be fun. I think it suits me. Without a doubt (Galette and Wilson) will be the most excited about the situation. As long as everybody is on the same page I can’t see why this wouldn’t be a great fit for us,” Jordan said.
Ryan’s playbook can be described as “multiple,” utilizing an array of fronts and blitzes, including the 46 Bear front and the Fire Zone blitz. Both are staples of other defenses around the league, but they’re not presented as differently as Ryan does. He’ll instruct his defenders to move around before the snap, giving misdirection and false looks to offensive linemen in one direction and then come at another.
When it comes to Jordan, he’s played every technique in the book as a lineman and has even stood up on a few snaps as a linebacker. There’s not much difference between the two when the player is always coming downhill like Jordan has, but it’s the possibility of unexpectedly dropping into coverage that Ryan likes. Fortunately, Jordan’s athletic enough to drop into a short zone underneath despite weighing 287 pounds, and he still has the length and strength to pose problems downhill.
Rushing the passer, he’s been lethal with a wicked arm-over (or “swim”) that’s left the highest rated blockers flat on their face or grasping air. Take his Week 1 swim past the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 overall selection and right tackle Eric Fisher.
He lined up as a five technique defensive end and jumped off the snap much quicker than Fisher did. Jordan has underrated quickness off the line and he put it to good use here, getting a jump on Fisher and immediately putting himself in position to perform the arm-over on the backtracking first-round pick.
Four steps forward, Jordan placed his left arm on Fisher’s right shoulder like he was patting him on the back. He then promptly brought his tucked right arm over Fisher’s helmet, hopping past him, dipping his shoulder, and bending the corner as his arms once again raised up.
Fisher was lucky that quarterback Alex Smith got rid of the ball as quickly as he did or he would be even more embarrassed on the game film the next morning.
For the Oakland Raiders’ left tackle Alex Barron, there was no saving face. He faced Jordan during Week 2 and he lost big on one particular play. Unlike Fisher, he didn’t get beat off the snap, but he also didn’t keep his head up and punch strongly at the point of contact. When Jordan came off the three-man line as a right end, he slapped Barron’s hands away and patted him on the back as he pushed him to the ground and drilled quarterback.
Later in the same game, Jordan lined up in a four-point stance at the one technique, just outside the shoulder of center Stefen Wisniewski, in Ryan’s two-man front. Wisniewski’s a good player, but he was slaughtered by the 24-year-old.
At the snap, Jordan raised up, placed his left hand on Wisniewski’s chest and hopped as he raised his right arm to swim past the center for a hurry on Flynn, who escaped the pocket because his center was draped across the feet of Jordan (who was also being chipped by the left guard).
It wasn’t going to be easy for Jordan to top the eight sacks he posted last season in Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense. But back in the 3-4, he could do similar damage to what we’re seen in the preseason this year if he’s used along the interior and exterior of the trenches.
He has very long and quick arms that enable him to beat blockers to the point and create room to perform pass-rush moves like the arm-over. Combined with his quickness and a move back home, Jordan’s skills will allow him to produce big-time and start getting recognition like the big boys.