Two weeks ago, Cam Jordan felt frustrated.
Newly minted as the defensive line’s foundational piece this offseason, Jordan had responded by providing stretches of dominant play, but the numbers weren’t coming. Five games into the season, Jordan had just one sack.
And the number gnawed at him a bit.
“I have to lead our d-line better,” Jordan said after the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. “I have fallen off a couple of sacks. I have also been evaded a few times. That is personally frustrating. We get a sack last night that gets negated by a penalty. That is something that you have to focus on. That is something that you have to put on yourself to do more. I have to do more.”
Jordan answered his own challenge last Thursday night.
Working both outside and inside, Jordan piled up six tackles, three sacks and three tackles-for-loss against the Falcons, dominating an offensive line that had been getting rave reviews.
“It’s tough with lineman always because we see production,” coach Sean Payton said. “Last week, of course, you saw the production. There is a lot that goes into that. When a team suddenly has to throw the ball, it becomes a lot harder on the offense, and so he has that versatility to play the run and give us the rush as well.”
In the base defense, Jordan usually plays the Jack, the edge position that used to be manned by Junior Galette.
When the Saints put in their pass-rushing personnel, though, Jordan often slides down inside, working against guards and centers who don’t always have to deal with players who have Jordan’s combination of strength and quickness.
“It’s rare,” Saints edge rusher Kasim Edebali said. “You don’t see a lot of guys with his size and athleticism. He’s almost 300 pounds, and he moves like he weighs 240, 250. That’s why he’s so good.”
Using Jordan as an interior rusher isn’t an exotic tactic. Beyond the fact that his size makes him comparable to a defensive tackle, NFL teams have been shifting their best rushers — of all shapes and sizes — into the middle to take advantage of matchups over the past couple of years.
“Defenses are trying to get their best four rushers,” Payton said. “When it’s not 100 percent, but almost 100 percent in passing situations, you’re trying to get your most active players in the pass rush on the field, and maybe, sometimes, you’re looking for a certain matchup on a lineman, but that always creates problems offensively because you’re in an obvious passing situation, and you know you have to be spot on with your protections, where the help’s coming from and what type of protection you’re in.”
Jordan could again create problems on the interior this week against a Colts team that has had a revolving door at the guard positions this season. Both Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck have been under a constant rush, and Indianapolis has started four different players at the guard spots just two weeks into the season.
And if the Colts decide to commit two or three players to block Jordan, players like Edebali and rookie Hau’oli Kikaha have shown they can get to the quarterback.
Whatever the case, Indianapolis must find a way to slow down Jordan on Sunday.
He’s still hungry for more.