METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton would like to caution those trying to compare Saints defensive end Cam Jordan with Houston’s J.J. Watt.
Unless, of course, you’re talking about how they both will be used in similar 3-4 defensive schemes.
Because of that, Watt already is one of the NFL’s elite defensive players. Jordan, well, he just might be opening a chapter that has barely been penned on the Saints’ third-year lineman.
Then again, Jordan isn’t exactly jumping on that bandwagon, either.
“I don’t know,” Jordan said. “I couldn’t answer that one. Yeah, he’s good. Swats a lot of balls. Makes a lot of sacks. Makes a lot of plays.”
Watt-like or not, Jordan has become one of the Saints few bright spots on defense. In just his second year in the NFL, he finished fourth on the team with 76 tackles. His eight sacks were nearly a third of New Orleans’ final total and he recorded, from his defensive end spot, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Now with his third defensive coordinator in three seasons, he’s just trying to stay abreast of everything that’s rapidly happening in the classrooms. He’s also trying to make a position for himself like everyone else on the team, he said.
“And that position seems to be something like a jackknife,” Jordan said. “So with that being said, I’m just trying to buy into the program. It’s sort of getting easier every year. Like I’ve been saying, being comfortable with the uncomfortable, switching defenses every year.”
Where’s not comfortable is where he is physically nearly four weeks into training camp. Jordan believes he can still be faster, stronger and quicker.
He is alone in that, however. Payton believes his young end right where he needs to be with a little more than three weeks to go before the regular season begins.
“I think he’s in a real good spot with his stature and his weight right now,” Payton said. “He’s in great shape. He came in in great shape to the conditioning test. He has very good stamina and is a tough player.”
That stamina will come in handy for a position that will go a long way in helping the Saints become better against the run.
New Orleans allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL a season ago as opponents averaged 147.6 yards per game on the ground against the Saints. Jordan’s job will largely entail holding up blockers to allow other defensive players to make plays.
But he’s not worried about suddenly becoming an afterthought in making plays happen for the defense.
“I definitely think that there’s gonna be a lot of opportunities to make plays,” Jordan said. “I’ve just got to capitalize on them. There’s still, of course, the dirty work that you’re speaking of. And some plays I’ll have to do that double gap and hold the tackle and the guard and let my outside linebacker, i.e. Will Smith, Junior Galette just go ahead and eat off of that.
“But I also think that in turn it’ll also help me loosen free when they realize what kind of threat they are.”
That’s all the Saints can ask for from Jordan.
“He’s going to be on the field a lot, not only on the base,” Payton said. “He rushes the passer well, he’s physical, and he’s provided good leadership. He has worked hard.”