- We sat down with the Saints’ All-Pro to review a playoff game against the Panthers and learn the secrets of what makes him one of football’s premier pass rushers
Cam Jordan and I are watching the film on his dominant performance in New Orleans’s Wild Card win over Carolina. The best part about watching film: It brings out a player’s honesty.
JORDAN: This game, I ran hot. You know, when O-lineman do the extra stuff, right after the whistle, that extra nudge, that extra little push. You’ve played them already, two times a year for however many years they’ve been there. Even before [left tackle Matt Kalil] arrived, he was at the Vikings, and I faced him, so you know what type of player he is. He does his best job to irritate the hell out of me, after the snap, the extra push, and so [long pause] … I ran hot.
On the first snap, Carolina slides the protection away from Jordan but double-teams him with a running back and tight end. Third-and-5, 11:05 left, first quarter.
JORDAN: This is irritating. I really would rather be on this backside with this one-on-one block.
BENOIT: Even with the slide going that way, you still want that?
JORDAN: Oh for sure. Because all you have to do is beat Matt Kalil. I feel like I’m stronger than him. So like, a quick bull pull will do that.
Cam Newton escapes pressure. Third-and-8, 8:58, first quarter.
JORDAN: Gosh darn it. Cam can be the most aggravating QB to get after, because he does just this. Where he scrambles like the best of them, and he can take off and really pick up stride.
BENOIT: And then he is going to do that stuff at the end of the play. [We see Newton showily signaling first down.]
JORDAN: Of course. I would say the more amped up he gets, the more you’re in for a whole s--- show.
Jordan faces Kalil and a chip-blocker. First-and-10, 8:31, first quarter.
BENOIT: How frustrating is the chip block?
JORDAN: It’s frustrating, but it’s also respect. At some point they realize [Kalil] is not enough, or they just respect you as a pass rusher enough to give you a chip release every time. After the chip release, you look for the hand placement. So now I’ve got his wrists, and now I’m popping them up, getting him off balance.
BENOIT: So you want to raise the blocker’s hands?
JORDAN: Exactly. It allows me to have more control if I want to pop inside or outside, and more times than not I should be popping outside.
BENOIT: Who’s the best lineman you went up against last season?
JORDAN: I don’t know.
BENOIT: Who’s the second best lineman you went up against last season?
JORDAN: [Laughs.] They are all nameless faces.
BENOIT: OK, but be honest with me: Do you have an idea and just not want to say?
JORDAN: Nah, I mean, at this point there’ve been some good battles, but I tried my best last year to make them nameless faces. Whereas some years it’s been like, ‘Hey I got this tackle coming in, and I wanna make it about him. Last year it was strictly about how I was moving, or how I could affect the line. So as much as I changed around positions, the easiest way to go about doing that was to make them nameless faces.
BENOIT: With the moving around, had you done the stand-up stuff at any point before? You’ve had a lot of different schemes because you’ve had a lot of defensive coordinators.
JORDAN: Right? Not to this extent, for sure. I sort of dig it.
BENOIT: You do it in the red zone a lot. You nearly had an interception early in the season on one, didn’t you?
JORDAN: Minnesota game [Week 1]. I still got the knot in my neck from it. [Linebacker A.J. Klein inadvertently collided with Jordan, breaking up the pass.] Good ole’ A.J.
We see Jordan mix things up in a pass rush.
JORDAN: I thought it was a run, so I settled down to play both gaps. Running back goes past me and I realize it’s not a run. And now [Ryan Kalil] is doing some chippy s---. [Kalil hits Jordan just a bit after the whistle.]
BENOIT: Did you get any personal fouls last year?
JORDAN: I don’t think so.
BENOIT: Did you deserve any?
JORDAN: No! I don’t do extras. I’m a snap to the whistle type of guy. Offensive lineman are the extra chippy ones.
BENOIT: These are “nameless faces” I know, but tell me, who were you battling on this next snap?
JORDAN: The other Kalil brother.
BENOIT: So that’s the one that just pissed you off?
JORDAN: Right, so now it’s my turn. It’s all bull all power.
We see Jordan completely dislodge Matt Kalil. Second-and-11, 7:42, second quarter.
JORDAN: I want to make him feel like I’m about to a speed rush so he hot steps—takes some fast steps—just to try and get some jitter. Then once he squares up, then I’m bulling.
BENOIT: Do you study other defensive ends, or have you over the years?
BENOIT: Who’s the best you’ve seen at that speed-to-power rush?
JORDAN: John Randle. But he’s a defensive tackle. I mean, you probably go speed-to-power moves, DeMarcus Ware has a great one, Von [Miller] has a great speed-to-power. Just because you have to respect his speed. Khalil Mack has a good one. You know, there are a lot of good edge rushers, but yeah those would be the primary guys. That’s what I do in my offseason—I watch all the pass rushers. I want steal whatever was working.
BENOIT: When do you start that process?
BENOIT: You go off sacks?
JORDAN: Exactly. Sacks or, last year I did a pressure reel. I wanted to see what everyone and what could I take from that.
BENOIT: How deep do you go? Like a guy that had four sacks off the bench, are you watching his tape, or are we talking sack leaders?
JORDAN: Sack leaders.
BENOIT: How much do you concern yourself with the coverage?
JORDAN: Depends. If I know it’s a man blitz, I know the slant routes are protected, I know I have time to do a little more in my rush. If it’s a Cover 2, I gotta be quick, I gotta win now. But other than that, you just rely on the guys behind you doing their job on the back side.
BENOIT: When I visited the Bengals on a game plan installation day, one of their defensive ends screwed off at the front of the meeting when they were going over coverages. And I was thinking, ‘Is this just what he’s like?’ But then they started going over the defensive fronts, and he turned into the ultimate professional in the blink of an eye.
JORDAN: Right, no doubt! You start talking about coverage, you could almost take a nap, like, “Could you wake me up when y’all are done?” It’s like it’s two different meetings. If you start asking a DB about all the stunts we do, they’ll be like “I don’t know…?” They’ll say, “You know what Cover 2 is? You know what Cover 3 is?” Sure, like in theory. But I don’t really know what happens in physical application.
BENOIT: But you knew on this play we’re seeing here that you had the inside slot receiver in your dropback. So obviously you have some understanding of the basics.
JORDAN: When I need it. [Laughs.] When I deem it necessary. I mean, yeah, you have to have a basic understanding of all defenses, but other than that, in-depth knowledge of exactly who is Receiver 2, who is Receiver 3? I’m not here for all of that. Not yet anyway, maybe next year.
BENOIT: Oh, you’ll move to linebacker, outside linebacker, full time, will you?
JORDAN: Right. [A mischievous smile distorts how serious Jordan is being.]
BENOIT: Well, you won’t go All-Pro again because you won’t get any sacks.
JORDAN: I don’t know about that.
BENOIT: You think you would?
BENOIT: You guys will stick with this scheme I would imagine, wouldn’t you?
JORDAN: We’ll see. Really though, as an outside linebacker I’d just get a couple more picks.
BENOIT: Did you play any 3-technique at all?
JORDAN: Some, not much, but some.
BENOIT: I’ve always thought you would make a great passing-down 3-tech, especially early in your career.
JORDAN: That’s what they tried to make me. I’ve evolved. I forced myself to be something different.
BENOIT: That’s smart because defensive ends make more money than the defensive tackles.
JORDAN: Do they? What has Ndamukong Suh made?
BENOIT: Ndamukong Suh’s the exception.
JORDAN: Gerald McCoy?
BENOIT: Well, let’s talk when Jadeveon Clowney gets up for a new deal.
JORDAN: Malik Jackson?
BENOIT: No, I am not saying some D-tackles are not highly paid, it’s true. But D-ends on average would cost a tick more than defensive tackles.
JORDAN: Aaron Donald?
BENOIT: Yeah, but, you’re naming the best of the best.
JORDAN: For sure, for sure. But shoot, Malik Jackson popped up after the Broncos Super Bowl year and helped everybody.
BENOIT: And back then he was more a 5-tech [an unglamorous defensive end position].
JORDAN: You can be a 5-tech when you have Von on the edge, DeMarcus Ware on the other.
BENOIT: Yeah, that helped Malik, didn’t it?
JORDAN: You got two of the [NFL’s] top five pass rushers on your team. And then Derek Wolfe, he was having a hell of a year that year.
BENOIT: He was. He took his new contract kind of early. Did you see his deal?
JORDAN: He did OK, it just wasn’t Malik Jackson money four months later.
BENOIT: Let’s look at this next play—you’re aligned as a stand-up edge player here.
JORDAN: You know me, I’m just a stand-up edge. [Laughs.]
BENOIT: How different is it setting the edge off a two-point stance versus doing it with your hand in the dirt?
JORDAN: Normally when you’re setting the edge off a two-point, you’re on a tight end. It’s that much easier.
BENOIT: You said you see the field better standing up, too.
JORDAN: You see everything! At D-end, you may or may not see a running back motion, but if you’re in a two-point you see all the motions. You may see the vision of the QB, what he sees when he’s checking to a new play.
BENOIT: Could you have done this stand-up stuff early in your career?
JORDAN: I don’t know. [His expressions suggests incredulity.] I evolved at the right time, at the right pace.
Cam Newton jukes past linebacker Manti Te’o but eventually gets clobbered.
JORDAN: Look at him! Manti could have easily made this tackle, but we have Cam doing Cam type things. Playing hide-and-go seek behind the line.
BENOIT: Let’s go to play –
JORDAN: Wait, look. How is this man not in concussion protocol?
We see Newton lying on the ground. The previous run had ended with a big hit, and he staggered around. On the next snap, the ball is tipped in the air, and Jordan barely fails to reach it.
BENOIT: Earlier in the year I saw you intercept one of those.
JORDAN: The Detroit game. [He caught it in the end zone for six points.]
BENOIT: What goes through your head here?
JORDAN: Why? Why couldn’t the ball go up a little higher, just straight up? Why’d it have to go so far away? Ugh.
BENOIT: How many line-of-scrimmage pass deflections did you have last year?
JORDAN: 11? 12? 14? Depends on how you look at things. I think they finished me with 11. There was a 2-point play –
BENOIT: Ah! Those don’t count in your stats.
JORDAN: Yeah, those don’t count. Isn’t that more important? That’s points off the board! You don’t count 2-point plays, you don’t count postseason snaps. You’re out here working for free.
BENOIT: They did this on back-to-back plays, sliding the OL to your side with tight ends and running backs also over there.
JORDAN: And not releasing! The extra blockers aren’t releasing! At this point I was thinking I’d commit to a power rush and wait for the back to release. He never released! It’s times like this where you just wonder, Who do they do this to?
BENOIT: You wish there were a stat for that? Like a mainstream stat?
JORDAN: You watch guys get multiple sacks a game and you never see them catch an O-line slide. I get one sack, but I got the whole O-line plus some.
BENOIT: We’re going to watch the last few plays of this game, and I imagine you remember why.
Jordan dominated on these snaps. We see him work a stunt with defensive tackle David Onyemata. First-and-10, 0:46, fourth quarter.
JORDAN: Young Booka Badass is great at stunts.
BENOIT: That’s what you guys call Onyemata?
JORDAN: Booka. It’s one of, or like a part of, his middle name.
BENOIT: How’d you find that out? Did he tell you?
BENOIT: Some people like to keep their middle name private because, well, otherwise their friends turn them into nicknames.
JORDAN: For sure, for sure. Booka Badass is a pretty sweet name, though. He does a phenomenal job here ripping through the A-gap. And had 22 [Christian McCaffrey] not been there, just getting in the dang way …
BENOIT: He’s pesky.
We see Jordan beat Daryl Williams with a swim move and then overpower McCaffery to pressure Newton into an incompletion. Second-and-10, 0:41, fourth quarter.
BENOIT: When you hit Newton here, just after the throw, how tempting is it to drive him to the ground? You let go just in time …
JORDAN: At this point it’s just a critical part of the game. As much as you’d love to, you gotta do the right thing.
Last play. The Saints blitz Carolina’s empty backfield, with safety Von Bell getting in clean to Newton. Fourth-and-23, 0:11, fourth quarter.
BENOIT: I thought this was one of the best blitz designs all year.
JORDAN: I’m not sure how I didn’t get at least half a sack for this! I mean, come on!
BENOIT: What would Von Bell say here?
JORDAN: That he needed help bringing down the QB.
BENOIT: So he would give you half a sack?
JORDAN: In his mind, he’s probably like, ‘I had him!’ Psh—Cam’s probably breaking out of that, or at least throwing the ball away. (Jordan says this with a wry smile.)
BENOIT: What was the highlight of the season for you personally?
JORDAN: Scoring a touchdown. [The Lions interception.]
BENOIT: Was that your NFL first?
JORDAN: [Pause] … yes? Yes. It wasn’t my first interception, but it was my first touchdown.
BENOIT: What can we expect from you in 2018?
JORDAN: Two interceptions for touchdowns. Maybe three.
BENOIT: [Blank stare.]
JORDAN: Nah, honestly, I just want to go further as a team than we did last year. Whatever it takes to get to the Super Bowl.
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