The compliment to Cam Jordan lies in the fact that no longer is a big deal being made of his flip from left defensive end in a 4-3 alignment to right defensive end in the Saints’ 3-4.
As smooth as the move was said to have been during offseason workouts, it appears to be even more of a fit during preseason games, where the third-year player has had no problem making an impact in limited action.
First it was three tackles, including a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hurry against Kansas City. Then, a sack for minus-9 yards, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries against Oakland.
It’s been impossible to miss Jordan on the field, with him spending a decent amount of his time in the opposing backfield.
“It’s only preseason,” he cautioned. “I’m just trying to catch my feel for it. The only thing that I’ve got going for me right now is that I’ve played the 3-4 in college and saw a couple of different 3-4 packages (in his first two NFL seasons).
That’s not idle talk from Jordan, the Saints’ first-round draft choice (No. 24 overall) in 2011. He was a consistent positive for New Orleans at left defensive end last season, when he led the team in sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (three), tied for the lead in fumble recoveries (two), led the linemen in tackles (76) and totaled three passes defensed.
But he accepted the challenge of moving to right end this season for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and so far, the results have been encouraging.
“I think he’s in a real good spot with his stature and his weight right now,” Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. “He’s in great shape. He came in in great shape to the conditioning test. He has very good stamina and is a tough player.
“I think he was one of the bright spots a year ago and he’s handled this transition really well. He’s going to be on the field a lot, not only on the base. He rushes the passer well, he’s physical, and he’s provided good leadership. He has worked hard.””
Hard work isn’t something Jordan has been accused of ducking.
Certainly, it had to have helped that he played left and right defensive end in the 3-4 defense in college at California. In 50 games and 33 starts he finished with 175 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss.
But making the switch in the NFL required a renewed level of dedication, study and technique refinement. And Jordan still feels he’s a work in progress.
“I’m not where I want to be,” he said. “I want to be faster, I want to be stronger, I want to be quicker. There’s always so many things that you can get better at and that’s what it’s all about, every day coming out with that new mentality. My goal is just to come to work and work hard.”
So far, he appears to be on track. So far, he has been effective enough that it doesn’t seem like such a big deal any more that he has switched positions in a new defense.