The New Orleans Saints have won two games in a row against the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts and their defense looks much better now than in previous games. Defensive end Cameron Jordan is one of the main reasons why they’re playing at this level right now.
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Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work to do for the Saints if they want to put on the field a competitive defense but what we’ve seen in the last two games was definitely encouraging. At the very least, they don’t have the 32nd-ranked defense in the league anymore!
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The improvement we’ve seen lately is mainly due to an ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks early and often by the Saints defensive line. Against the Falcons they still struggled against the run but they were able to attack both Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, inducing them to turn the ball over more than once.
Same goes for the game against the Colts: the Saints were able to attack Andrew Luck and kick/punt returner Griff Whalen, forcing them to turn the ball over multiple times. Add to that the fact that the offense was able to produce scoring drives early in both games and there you have your recipe for success.
The young defensive line of the Saints has its leader in Cameron Jordan, the 5th-year defensive end who just signed a massive new deal during the last offseason to stay in New Orleans for a few more years. The extension included $55 million in new money over five years and a $16 million signing bonus. That’s a lot of money, especially for a team with salary cap issues like the Saints, but Jordan is showing game after game he’s worth every penny.
Jordan leads the team in sacks on the season with 6.0 and racked up 16 solo tackles and 1 forced fumble. He was flagged only once so far and was able to create 17 defensive stops, i.e. forced negative plays for the offense, according to Pro Football Focus. Other than the six sacks Jordan has been a real nightmare for opposing quarterbacks lately.
He leads the NFL in QB hurries with 25 and in passes batted down with 4 (tied with Rob Ninkovich) among 4-3 defensive ends, always according to Pro Football Focus. Jordan also has the highest grade in that category and an overall better grade than defensive end J.J. Watt.
Even if the Saints lost their first three games Jordan played pretty well in pass rushing situations while he gained an average grade against the run. The Saints struggled tremendously against running backs over those three weeks and also in their week 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Jordan’s worst game of the 2015 season.
Over the last two contests Jordan emerged as a premier pass rusher and a force to be reckoned with. Here’s his stat line: 5 sacks, 11 QB hurries, 3 QB hits and 2 batted passes. What a difference a player like Jordan makes on a struggling defense, when he plays at the top of his game.
If Jordan keeps this level of play he will not only make his second Pro Bowl this year but he might rightfully enter the discussion of the All-Pro status. One thing is for sure: with this Cam Jordan in the trenches Rob Ryan and the whole Saints’ defense feel safer and can play with more confidence going on.
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