Cameron Jordan vs. the Falcons (3 sacks, 1.5 TFL, 2 holding penalties)

Cameron Jordan was drafted by the Saints in the first round of the 2011 draft. Since then, he’s been one of the centerpieces of their defense. In 2013, under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, he had 12.5 sacks and earned his first Pro Bowl selection. Along with the rest of the Saints defense, he had a down year in 2014, and was not off to a great start this year either. However, that changed in week 6, as Jordan was a key part of the Saints’ victory over the previously undefeated Atlanta Falcons.

Nominally, the Saints run a 3-4 under Rob Ryan and Cam Jordan is a 3-4 DE. However, in the game being covered, neither of those two things were really the case. The Saints played the majority of their snaps with four down linemen, indicating a base 4-3 defense. Jordan played his snaps as either a 7 technique (which is traditionally a 4-3 DE position) or as a 3 technique (traditionally a 4-3 DT position). Wherever he was, Jordan made an impact. So, without further ado, let’s get to the tape to see just how he helped beat the Falcons:

Pass Rushing

2-15-NO 48 (Q1, 7:46) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right to D.Freeman to NO 37 for 11 yards (D.Ellerbe).


While Jordan doesn’t actually have an effect on the end result of this play, it’s still notable because he absolutely murders LT Jake Matthews. Matthews has been playing very well in his second NFL season, but is no match for Jordan here because Cam gets a great jump off the ball. He simply runs around Matthews before he has a chance to react, and he’s able to easily swat the LT’s hands away, and make Matthews lunge at him to try to stop his rush. It’s ineffective, and Jordan ends up with a free path to the QB. However, since the Falcons are throwing a screen, Jordan’s burst and destruction of the LT are not really relevant. Still, it’s nice to see that a guy who primarily played as a 3-4 DE can be successful on a speed rush from the edge.


3-3-ATL 27 (Q1, 2:56) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at ATL 16 for -11 yards (K.Edebali).


Here’s a play that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet for Jordan but was really the result of his effort. He’s rushing from the left edge, and we get to see the real strength of his pass rushing, his power. He simply abuses Falcons RT Ryan Schraeder, using a bull rush to push him back towards Ryan’s lap, which flushes Matt Ryan out of the pocket and allows Edebali to chase him down for a sack. What’s most impressive about this play is that Cam is able to knock the RT back without even having good leverage. Schrader got down low, but Jordan was able to just lift him up and knock him back towards the QB. It’s a really impressive display of functional strength, and there are very few players in the NFL who would be able to move a guy with that disadvantage.


1-10-NO 43 (Q1, :48) M.Ryan pass incomplete short middle to J.Tamme.


On the previous play, we saw Jordan cause a sack, although he doesn’t get credit on the stat sheet. Here, we see him show good play recognition skills. On this play, the Falcons run play action to the left (or the right from this angle), and Jordan is the last defender on the line. The goal of this play action is to get the entire Saints defense to follow the run action, and then give Matt Ryan a lot of room to throw to the routes that are being run to the other half of the field. Jordan, however, has different ideas. He recognizes the fake really quickly, and runs straight at Ryan. This forces the QB to just throw the ball away into the ground. Once again, Jordan doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but his contributions caused a win for the Saints’ defense on this play.


3-1-50 (Q2, :04) (Shotgun) M.Ryan scrambles right tackle to NO 45 for 5 yards (C.Jordan).


This is the last play before halftime, and we get to see Jordan not only split a double team but also show nice effort to make the tackle to end the half. Initially, he’s blitzing straight up the middle between the C and RG. This is a really hard position to win in, and he does it seemingly with easy. The key is that he attacks the center first, using a swim move to lift his arm over the James Stone’s head and essentially make his attempt to block meaningless. Since he’s blown right past the center, he only really has the guard to deal with. The problem for that guard, Chris Chester, is that since the center blew his block Chester is only covering half of Jordan, which gives Jordan room to run right past Chester too. Matt Ryan sees Cam right in his face, and scrambles out of the way. The play isn’t over for Jordan, who immediately adjusts by looping back around his blockers. Ryan was able to escape the pocket and is now on the run, but Jordan is on a collision course. At first, Ryan sidesteps and Jordan misses, but Jordan is able to turn himself around and dive at Ryan’s legs, which causes the QB to fall to the ground and end the half.


2-2-ATL 28 (Q3, 1:52) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short middle to L.Hankerson (K.Vaccaro).


This play once again shows off Jordan’s bull rush, and also shows how pressure can affect a throw even if it doesn’t cause a throwaway. Jordan is facing off against Jake Matthews again on this play, and initially it looks like he’s going for a speed rush, but then he attacks at Matthews with a bull rush, which is called “converting speed to power.” It’s effective, and he pushes the LT back so his backside is even with Ryan’s backside. That’s not a good position to be in for the Falcons, and it forces Ryan to move up in the pocket a little. However, that also ends up being bad, because it puts #93 Kevin Williams right in Ryan’s face. Williams’ presence prevents Ryan from stepping into the throw, and his pass ends up behind Hankerson, the intended target. Now, Hankerson really should have caught this pass, but the pressure from Jordan helped cause the incompletion because it helped cause the throw being off target.


2-10-ATL 20 (Q4, 7:56) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at ATL 13 for -7 yards (C.Jordan).


In this scenario, the Falcons are down 17 and are trying desperately to come back. This obviously means they are going to be throwing the ball, so the Saints would prefer to get pressure with their four down linemen so they don’t have to risk a blitz, which could result in a big play. Cam Jordan makes that happen. This time he has a one-on-one against RG Chester, and he beats him badly. They both trade blows with their hands, but that’s important for Jordan because it means that Chester can’t get a grasp on him to really lock him down and prevent him from being a problem. Something else that’s important is that Jordan moves Chester backwards throughout the entire play. As an interior offensive lineman, moving backward is about the worst thing you can do because it probably means you’re going to be backing up into your QB. Finally, an important nuance Jordan adds to this is putting his hand up to block the pass. Ryan is preparing to throw, but Jordan’s hand flashing up forces him to bring the ball down. Once Ryan brings it down, Cam is able to pounce on him for the sack to force a 3rd and 17.


1-10-NO 34 (Q4, 2:46) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at NO 38 for -4 yards (C.Jordan).


The Falcons are once again trying to desperately come back, and have made it into Saints territory. Jordan is once again facing off against Chester. On this play, he does a really good job of combining moves to beat his blocker and take Ryan down. He starts out the play lined up at 3 technique, which means he’s on the outside shoulder of the guard. He takes his first steps pretty much straight upfield. This causes Chester to move to his right (the camera’s left). Then, Jordan surprises Chester by crashing back towards the inside. Jordan has position there, and Chester is caught playing catch up. This isn’t very successful for Jordan, because he crashes into the center. However, what he does next is obviously what causes the sack. He does a great job of using Chester’s momentum against him and also using the momentum he gained by running into the center to spin around. Chester loses him on the spin move, and he comes free, right in Ryan’s face. It should also be noted that the only reason Matt Ryan was where he ended up was because Jordan crashing down caused that void. So, Jordan vacated a space, baited Ryan to moving there, and then went back to fill that space, where he was able to take Ryan down for the sack. It was a great individual effort.


1-10-ATL 17 (Q4, :24) (Shotgun) M.Ryan sacked at ATL 16 for -1 yards (C.Jordan). FUMBLES (C.Jordan), RECOVERED by NO-C.Jordan at ATL 16. C.Jordan to ATL 16 for no gain (C.Chester).


Jordan is rushing from the same place we saw on the last play, but this time he approaches it differently. Here, his play is to attack Chester’s outside shoulder and swim over him. He does just that, knocking Chester around and getting past him. This forces Ryan to step up in the pocket, but Jordan also does a great job of turning the corner. He basically does a 180 around Chester while the guard is too slow to follow him. As Ryan is sliding up in the pocket, Jordan reaches his arm out and gets a hand on the football, which knocks it loose. He then dives on it to recover, earning the trifecta of a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. The game was virtually over at this point anyway, but this play officially sealed the game for the Saints as they were able to kneel once to run out the clock.


CLICK HERE TO READ THE NEXT PAGE OF THE ARTICLE

Matt Fries

Matt fell in love with football as a young kid, but his passion for the strategy on the game flourished as a hobby during his time in college. Now graduated, Matt loves scouting individual players as well as breaking down strategies teams use to create winning plays. For all of Matt's articles: <strong><a href="http://nflbreakdowns.com/author/MattFries/">Click Here</a>.</strong>