METAIRIE, La. — Stop and talk to Cameron Jordan and you realize instantly the conversation won’t follow a straight path.
It might start about football, but it’ll likely end with comments topics ranging from his hair to Cal football to, well, you never really know.
Yet, that same hyperactive characteristic that can wear down a conversation also serves a beneficial purpose in his chosen profession.
Jordan is a Tasmanian devil, his high energy driving opponents crazy this season, his third in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.
“He’s always had a high motor,” Saints linebacker Ramon Humber said. “Basically this year, his pass rushing skills have improved a lot more. He just needs to continue to work at it, work at it during practice and the offseason. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be an unstoppable position.”
Humber is proving prescient.
Jordan leads the team with five sacks, has forced a fumble and recovered another. He’s also fifth on the team with 26 tackles, playing both right and left end in New Orleans’ ever-evolving 3-4 and 4-2-5 defense.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan has played 55 percent of his snaps at end in a four-man front, with roughly 34 percent coming in a three-man or less front.
Regardless of the front he’s playing in, he is fast-becoming one of the league’s most difficult ends to play against.
“Strength is definitely a factor as well, as is his motor,” said Thomas Maney with PFF. “You rarely see him give up on plays.”
That was a factor in the Saints naming him co-defensive player of the year for 2012. The trophy he earned for that accomplishment sits on the shelf in his locker.
Not that leaving it there is a motivational technique.
“No, if I bring it home, I feel like I’d have to put in my apartment and I don’t know what to do with it,” Jordan said.
Regardless of where the trophy resides, it’s a testament to Jordan’s 2012. Though he was away from the team for a year due to suspension, head coach Sean Payton was well aware of just how good Jordan was in Year 2.
“He played very well last year for us being on a defense that wasn’t having success,” Payton said. “He played extremely well. He’s playing even better this season. He is in great shape.”
And yet, Jordan isn’t taking stock of what he has done so far this season.
“Honestly, we’re only a third of the way through the season,” Jordan said. “There’s still a lot more football to play, still a lot more to learn, still a lot more to show. Every game is a new challenge.”
That includes playing through what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the second half of the Oct. 13 game at New England. Jordan left the game briefly and returned only when his right ankle was re-taped.
He didn’t record another tackle and, on the final fateful series, didn’t appear to have the speed or push from his ankle to put true pressure on Tom Brady.
Still, he’s a large reason the Saints are 5-1 right now. He’s not resting on his laurels and is striving to keep getting better.
“I’m never trying to just accept whatever they’re trying to give me,” Jordan said. “I’m always going for the extra step, the extra mile and I work hard and really just keep on working to outwork all my teammates.”
PFF has Jordan with at least four quarterback disruptions in every game this season.
“In terms of specific rush moves, I’ve seen Jordan mix in more inside moves and bull rushes this season – whereas last season he’d often just try to beat his man around the edge more often than not,” PFF’s Maney added
Whatever he’s doing, Rob Ryan and teammates have noticed.
“He looks like a damn movie star but he’s so tough,” said Ryan, in his first year with the Saints as defensive coordinator. “I mean he has got great toughness and an unbelievable motor. So you talk about a guy that has a lot going for him, the whole package. Cam certainly does and he’s just getting better.”
“He has matured as a player once he got comfortable,” end/linebacker Junior Galette said. “He’s just getting better every day. He has unlimited potential, could be one of the better players in the league.”