Falcons must be wary of Saints Cameron Jordan's triple-double threat
Michael Jordan had 31 triple-doubles in his NBA career, meaning he produced double digits in points, rebounds and assists that many times.It does not happen as often in the NFL, but New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan — no relation — is nearing a season triple-double of the sacks, tackles for loss and passes defended variety.
No player has done it in those categories since Houston defensive end J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 16 passes defended in 2014.
Jordan, who leads the Saints defense against Atlanta in a 7:25 p.m. game Thursday on NBC and the NFL Network, has 10.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and seven passes batted down at or near the line of scrimmage. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who is 10th in the NFL in passing with 3,057 yards and 16 touchdowns, puts it up 32 times a game, so the 6-foot-4 Jordan will be ready on the Saints' left side. And the Falcons will be without starting left guard Andy Levitre because of torn triceps suffered in Atlanta's 14-9 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
"I don't know a defensive end who's doing what I'm doing. I'm trying to get a triple-double," Jordan said to ESPN.com this week.
"Usually when I hear him say, 'Triple-Double,' I'm thinking Steak 'n Shake," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I've not heard him talk of his triple-double. But there you go. I like it. I like it."
Such a triple-double could make Jordan, a seventh-year player out of California, the NFL's defensive player of the year as the Saints (9-3) appear on their way to the NFC South title with four games to play, including two against third place Atlanta (7-5).
Jordan has done everything but rebound for the Saints this season. He scored a touchdown on an interception off Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford, then dunked it over the goal post. His head deflection of a pass by Stafford also served as an assist on a Kenny Vaccaro interception.
Jordan's head is an integral part of how he is able to get his hands on so many passes at the line.
"He's got good instincts," Payton said. "These quarterbacks are in rhythm and timing, so 'If I can't get there with a sack, I can rush and feel the cock of the release and the delivery.' That becomes pretty consistent. They get smart enough to figure out the ball's coming out earlier than they can get there, and it's coming out at a trajectory. That's significant. You have to work at that, and it's not easy."
Jordan also rarely lets up. He tends to play every play with similar top effort.
"I've said all along, his stamina is one of his greatest strengths," Payton said. "His ability to play a down at a high rate with a lot of energy and then recover. His stamina to play the 61st play as he's played the 18th or play three is very remarkable. Unique, I would say, for his position. And that's a credit to him."
Jordan is also the leader of the Saints' defense as the elder statesman, particularly on the defensive line as he has several years on everyone.
"Tyeler Davison (tackle) is in his third year," Jordan said. "David Onyemata (tackle) second year, Sheldon Rankins (tackle), second year. Then you talk about the defensive backs, and and you got first-year and second-year guys. I don't know too many other teams that's rockin' this average age."
Rookie first-round pick cornerback Marshon Lattimore, by the way, has been one of the Saints' best defensive backs, and he may return to action Thursday night after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury. He practiced Wednesday on a limited basis and is questionable for the game.
"We've begun to hit on some players that we think hopefully will play and play a long time here," Payton said.
Lattimore will be needed against Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, who is No. 3 in the NFL with 1,063 receiving yards on 68 catches with three touchdowns.
"He's outstanding," Payton said. "His strength is his explosion, his catch radius. I've said this before: When you're standing on the sidelines, and all of a sudden he splits out to your sideline, and you look at him, it's amazing how quickly he moves."
INJURY REPORT: Saints starting left guard Andrus Peat (groin) has been ruled out for Thursday night's game. Running back Mark Ingram (toe) is questionable after not practicing Wednesday. Starting left tackle Terron Armstead (thigh, shoulder), starting free safety Marcus Williams and starting defensive end Trey Hendrickson (knee) are also questionable after limited practices Wednesday.