For far too long, Cameron Jordan's brilliance has been overlooked by the rest of the NFL and its observers.
His impact has been impossible to ignore this season.
Jordan is tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (13), and the seven passes he's batted down is the most of any player among the top 25 in sacks. He even ranks third on the team with 52 tackles, a spot not normally reserved for a defensive lineman.
Jordan has been so good that his Saints teammates believe he should win the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.
"Anyone with eyes, anyone that turns on a Saints game tape — if they can't see the impact Cam has on the game from beginning to end, you're blind," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said.
The Saints took a huge stride toward their postseason aspirations Sunday with a 31-21 victory over their division rival Carolina Panthers. See…
Jordan has been clutch. He intercepted and scored against Matthew Stafford to end an improbable comeback bid by Detroit, and he sacked Kirk Cousins in overtime of a win over Washington. He has the highlights, most notably tossing Lions tackle Brian Mihalik backward into Stafford for a sack.
He has also been dominant against the NFL's best. When New Orleans took on Los Angeles and star left tackle Andrew Whitworth two weeks ago, Jordan bull-rushed the veteran for a sack and created two batted passes by driving Whitworth back into the pocket, among other plays.
"I think if Cam is playing as well as he’s capable of playing, I think he’s a tough matchup for anybody," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "I think that’s just a testament to Cam as a player.”
And there's not really anything Jordan cannot do.
The New Orleans Saints are running into the toughest date on any team's schedule this week.
Rushing the passer and playing the run are obvious roles for a defensive end, but Jordan also excels when he's put into unnatural situations.
On Sunday against the Panthers, Jordan twice found himself matched up one-on-one against Cam Newton, one of the league's best running quarterbacks, in the open field. Adopting a linebacker's stance instantly, Jordan made the tackle both times.
He has even held up well when Allen has asked him to drop into coverage — a responsibility few players who weigh 285 pounds ever handle.
"He can rush the passer, guard running backs out of the backfield," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "He can do just about everything. He's disruptive in every way."
Jordan has been this good for a long time.
Picked up in the first round of the star-studded 2011 draft, Jordan spent his rookie season as 300-pound run-stopper. He racked up eight sacks in his second year and has never looked back, playing in every game of his seven-year career.
He hasn't always gotten the recognition. Despite piling up 45 sacks over the past five seasons and regularly ranking high on analytics websites, Jordan has only two Pro Bowl berths, and he came in at only No. 99 in the NFL's top 100 this offseason.
"Cam has always flown under the radar, which probably drives him more than anything," Rankins said.
The Saints' defensive struggles last season played a part.
But there's no excuse now. New Orleans ranks 12th in the NFL in total defense, and Allen's troops were pivotal in the team's eight-game winning streak.
Asked on Tuesday if he should be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan deflected the question, saying he'd rather talk about the team's success or the play of his teammates.
Marshon Lattimore was close to returning this week against the Carolina Panthers.
The rest of the Saints made the case for him.
“I think he’s the best all-around defensive end in the National Football League,” Allen said. "He’s constantly a pressure player; he plays relentless; he plays a ton of snaps. He plays the run and the pass equally well. I just think as far as all-around defensive ends, I think you’re hard-pressed to find anybody that’s better than him."