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Saints program cover story: Cam Jordan

Defensive end just keeps getting better

Partly, the New Orleans Saints have the Minnesota Vikings to thank for the beast that is Cam Jordan, and for the unstoppable force that he continues striving to be.

The seventh-year defensive end is like most standout players in that he studies his craft, similar in that he hones in on players present and past in order to glean a nugget here or there. But Jordan's past, specifically, links to the Vikings, the franchise for which is father, Steve Jordan, was a standout tight end from 1982-94.

Steve Jordan – a three-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler who caught 498 passes for 6,307 yards and 28 touchdowns – also played with some of the greatest defensive linemen in Vikings history. And initially, those are the men who set a tone for Cam Jordan, players whom he studies even now.

There isn't much of an offseason study break for Jordan, who led the Saints in sacks last season (7.5) and has led the team in sacks in four of the last five seasons.

"Are we talking about that part where we're getting done with OTAs, that June-July situation?" Jordan asked. "That's when you get serious about cardio, you really tune and focus and start breaking down film on some of the best pass rushers in the game.

A look at Saints defensive end Cam Jordan throughout the 2016 season.

"That's when you go back – and again, I grew up a Minnesota Vikings kid – so I'm watching Chris Doleman, I'm watching Keith Millard, I'm watching John Randle. I'm even watching some of my dad's old highlights to see how he was pass protecting, because he was one of the better blocking tight ends in the game. You just talk about the ability to understand what pass rush concepts are, and that's what you've got to be able to improve upon."

He could do worse in terms of subjects to study.

Doleman, a defensive end and Pro Football Hall of Famer, totaled 150.5 sacks in his 15-year career. Ten seasons ('85-'93, and '99) and 96.5 sacks were accrued as a Viking, and Doleman was a five-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler.

Millard, a defensive tackle, was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 and a four-time All-Pro who totaled 51 sacks in his first five seasons with Minnesota ('85-'89).

Randle, also a defensive tackle, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer who totaled 137.5 sacks in 14 seasons, including 114 in 11 seasons as a Viking ('90-2000).

"You take moves from everybody," Jordan said. "Anybody successful, you're going to want to emulate their moves. You go far back to the (Hall of Famer) Reggie White club to the head – that's no longer allowed in the league – but you watch things growing up like that. When you get to the league, you emulate anybody who's had success and you've got to be able to put it into your pass rush situations."

And, definitely, you add your own flavor.

Jordan, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound ball of energy – he runs extra after practice if the doesn't get as many reps as he'd like, rides the exercise bike on the sideline before kickoff if he's not going to be allowed to play in preseason games – has worked his craft to a science.

There's a reason that he joins Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson as the only Saints in franchise history with five consecutive seasons of at least 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks, and that he joins former Saints great Wayne Martin as the only defensive linemen in franchise history with 7.5 sacks in five different seasons.

"I think Cam is, one, very unique as a rusher," said right tackle Zach Strief, a Saint since 2006 and the primary obstacle standing in Jordan's way when the No. 1 defense opposes the No. 1 offense in practice. "His style is unusual. All the difficulty in blocking Cam is that he's a very powerful defensive end. He's one of the few guys that I play in a year that I have legitimate concerns of getting pushed into the quarterback against.

"That's hard. We tell young linemen all the time, 'Start with stopping power.' Because if a guy can push you into the quarterback, he doesn't have to do anything else. And so, when a defensive end has that ability, that's tough. He pairs that with a very kind of unorthodox set of moves that come off of power, that look at lot like power.

"Even after all these years playing him, there'll be two or three times (per) practice where I set my feet for a bull (rush), and he does some swim move jump and I have missed. That's not a real common thing that I see. That's not something I get a lot of. And he's also got a motor that is absolutely relentless. For a big guy, for a guy that size, to be able to go as hard as he does throughout an entire practice and game, is very impressive."

Jordan is built to play every defensive snap, regardless of the number. It's a point of pride for him.

"That's what I'm pushing for," he said. "I want to be able to go fourth quarter, I want to be able to go overtime. Everybody's talks about 110 percent. I can only give 100 percent. I don't know where people get this other 10 percent from, but it's a great saying. I do know that my 100 percent better be better than the next person's."

More often than not, it is.

"I think Cam has gotten better every year," Strief said. "I think this is the best camp he has ever had. He gave me a move (in practice), I was like, 'Man.' I was frustrated with myself. And when I saw it on tape, I was like – (here, Strief shrugged his shoulders and smiled). Survive it.

"Everything about it looked like 'power long arm,' everything in the entire rush was power long arm. And then he outside swipes and, he's completely clean (en route to the quarterback).

"Listen, I'm glad he's on my team. I've thought about it numerous times during training camp. Like, 'Man, at least I don't have to deal with that in real life. It's just out there (in practice).' It's great work for me. I mean every day, he pushes me. Probably more than I'm able to push him."

Jordan feels the push from Strief, and appreciates it. Partly, it fuels his film study, gives him reason to study the past in pursuit of a more dominant future.

"That's what you have to do," he said. "Every day, every hour of the day, try to figure out how to get better. There's no part of my body that doesn't want to win so whatever I can do to get there, that's what I have to do."


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