Saints’ Defense, Led By Cameron Jordan, Is On Another Level
In the Who Dat? Nation’s wildest dreams, no one thought the Saints, with superstar quarterback Drew Brees sidelined since the second week of the season, would be sitting at 7-1 with some analysts calling them the best team in football.
Enough can’t be said about the amazing job backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did taking over in Brees’ absence. In five weeks, he went undefeated as the team’s starter. While Bridgewater didn’t put up the numbers we’ve come to expect when Brees is under center, he was steady and even captured the adoration of fans who have chanted “Ted-dy, Ted-dy, Ted-dy” at games at home and on the road.
While the quarterback position, generally, garners the most attention and press coverage, the story of the 2019 Saints may just be the prolific play of the defense. Put simply, they are playing on a different level than fans and spectators have been accustomed to under head coach Sean Payton.
The Saints “D” is currently ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense. Through eight games, the team is giving up an average of 19.5 points and 316.5 yards each game. Opponents are converting just 32% of their third down and 33% of fourth down plays.
It must be noted that those numbers are inflated due to a handful of games – most noticeably against Seattle and Chicago – when their opponents had late game scoring drives when the contests were more than decided in the Saints’ favor. That means this unit should be ranked higher than they are. It should be noted that the only teams making an argument as the best team in the NFL, the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers and 8-1 New England Patriots, are respectively the top two defenses in the league.
The 49ers are surrendering 12.8 points per game, while the Patriots are giving up a league low 10.9. Opponents are averaging 249.3 yards per game against New England and 241.0 against San Fran.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, the face of New Orleans’ defense, is having a tremendous year. He’s averaging a sack a game, has 19 solo tackles and has assisted on 11 more.
Neworleanssaints.com’s John DeShazier recently had a great column on Cameron working his way to the top of the franchise’s career sacks record. With 79.5 career sacks, Jordan, this season, moved ahead of Pat Swilling for third on the all-time list, behind Wayne Martin’s 82.5 and NFL Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson’s 115. The genius of the column is that DeShazier spoke with Jackson, Martin, and Swilling about Jordan’s career and his current performance. All three said he was more than deserving of the accolades he is receiving, with Jackson, who has 128 career sacks, believes Jordan can reach 130 to 140 sacks by the time he decides to retire.
“He’s going to get to his man real quick and do his business real quick,” Jackson said to DeShazier. “That makes me think a lot of me.”
He went on to say, “The other day, I watched the couple of sacks he got, it was all speed and quickness and beating the (offensive lineman) because he was a lot better.”
Consistency is the true hallmark of Jordan’s career. In nine seasons, he hasn’t missed a game and started all but one. In that time, he became the first Saint to have six straight seasons with at least 7.5 sacks and 60 tackles.
Swilling said he doesn’t see Jordan slowing down any time soon.
“He has a ring of tricks that he has picked up over the years that makes him an elite pass rusher,” Swilling said. “He has refined his pass rushing every year. He seems to have gotten better every year.”
The Saints still have 10 games left in the 2019 season. If they are going to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves, Jordan will be a key cog in the machine. A four-time pro bowler, he has received several honors. Still, a Super Bowl championship has remained elusive thus far. But Jordan and Saints fans around the world would love nothing more than for him to end the season by seeing his reflection in the Lombardi Trophy.