Cam Jordan is playing a little coy about the personnel package that breathed new life into the New Orleans Saints’ pass rush last week.
Jordan and Kasim Edebali rushing from the interior. Hau’oli Kikaha and Obum Gwacham on the outside. Deployed at the same time, the foursome gives the Saints plenty of speed to get after the passer.
Jordan liked the fleet foursome’s results Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whether the Saints’ NASCAR package will make an appearance in Carolina this week — and it seems like an obvious wrinkle to combat the mobility of Cam Newton — Jordan plans to keep that to himself.
“That was one of those times that we had a package that really worked to our advantage,” Jordan said. “Of course, we’d have liked to have it out there more. ... I don’t know if it’s in this week. We’ll see come Sunday, but I’m down for anything that can get us to the quarterback faster.”
The results were impressive. According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan and Kikaha each produced three quarterback hurries and a sack; Edebali came away with a sack and a batted pass; and Gwacham produced a hurry and a quarterback hit despite playing just eight snaps against the Bucs.
When the Saints faced an obvious passing situation, they lined up Kikaha on the edge, moved Jordan inside next to the rookie, placed Edebali on the inside and deployed Gwacham’s quickness on the right side. Moving Jordan inside sometimes forces the natural end to operate in less space, but the 287-pound frame Jordan carries and the savvy to pull off combination rushes make him an ideal interior rusher.
And it makes it more difficult for offenses to figure out where the Saints’ most disruptive defensive lineman is plying his trade.
“I rush from wherever gets to the quarterback,” Jordan said. “Whatever gets me there as fast as possible.”
The speed of Edebali and Jordan make stunts and twists — pass rush moves that require defensive linemen to exchange rushing lanes or cross each other’s paths — much more effective. A player like Edebali can line up on the inside shoulder of the guard and still get to the outside, making it much more difficult for the offensive line to set its blocks.
“We’re just trying to use what we’ve got,” Edebali said. “Use the speed, maybe get some twists or whatever, just different things, different looks, trying to give the offense different looks with our rushes.”
Another familiar wrinkle from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can make life difficult on opposing offenses. New Orleans likes to deploy an amoeba front, bring up a linebacker or a safety and line up with all six players at the line of scrimmage in two-point stances, forcing the offense to try to figure out who’s attacking the quarterback and who will drop into coverage.
“That was kind of part of it,” Gwacham said. “We want the offensive line to start thinking, maybe this guy’s going to stunt this way or that, cause a little confusion. I felt like every time we had that group in, the rush was pretty good.”
Newton presents a different problem for the Saints’ pass rush, one that has plagued New Orleans in the first two games. Both Carson Palmer and Jameis Winston bought time by evading the rush, breaking contain and leaving the pocket. Newton, one of the NFL’s best scramblers, can really hurt a team if he escapes the pocket unscathed.
“He’s a great player,” Kikaha said. “He uses his hands effectively, gets off of would-be tacklers and gets away from you.”
The Saints have had success against Newton the past two seasons, sacking him 13 times in four games, although they did come away sackless in the final meeting between the teams last year — a 41-10 Carolina win.
If New Orleans deploys its fleet foursome Sunday, the Saints could return to those big sack numbers again.
“A lot of people focus on keeping him in the pocket,” Jordan said. “Cam is enough of an athlete to even evade that. It’s just been a testament to our guys being able to chase him down from all angles, and that’s what we have to bring into this game — the ability to keep after him, keep chasing him and force him into some bad positions.”
A little extra speed always helps in a hunt.