Cameron Jordan is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. That is simply a fact, but for too long Jordan has been the lone superstar on an often disappointing New Orleans Saints defensive line. However, in the past few years, Jordan has thrived on a Saints line that improves seemingly year on year. In 2020, Jordan leads an impressive New Orleans Saints defensive line.
Cameron Jordan Leads Impressive Saints Defensive Line
A Big Fish in a Small Pond
Cameron Jordan has seen it all in New Orleans. Selected with the 24th pick in the 2011 draft, Saints fans always had high expectations for the former first-round pick.
Jordan surpassed those expectations years ago. After a slow start his rookie season when Jordan recorded just one sack, his production has exploded. Jordan now trails only Saints great Rickey Jackson for the franchise all-time sack record. The New Orleans defensive captain has taken down the opposition quarterback 89.5 times over ten seasons.
Jordan has been on some horrific defenses in New Orleans. Throughout the Sean Payton & Drew Brees era, the team has traditionally been an offensive juggernaut, often to the detriment of the defensive side of the ball. The lone bright spot on a woeful unit for many years, a shift in team recruiting and scheme stability have finally given Jordan an opportunity to shine on a top ten defensive unit.
Scheme Consistency Under Dennis Allen
The Saints defenses struggled hugely after the franchises maiden Super Bowl success in 2009. In fact, the 2012 unit is widely considered to be one of the worst defensive teams in league history.
After an improved 2013 campaign, New Orleans missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015. Going 7-9 each year, they consistently fielded one of the leagues worst defenses. During the 2015 season, the Saints fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and promoted assistant coach Dennis Allen to the coordinator role. A promotion that seemed unimaginative at the time. It followed Allen’s disastrous tenure as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, where his teams struggled to a mere eight wins over two and a quarter seasons.
After the Saints missed the playoffs again in 2016, many fans were calling for Allen’s job. Written off as another failure in a long list of coordinators who had only been given a couple of seasons at a time to turn things around. However, upper management stood by Allen and had already begun recruiting for the long term.
The team have invested heavily in the defense, with a clear strategy. Spend high draft picks on talent in the trenches, and at skill positions whilst using free agency to find veteran linebackers who can captain Allen’s scheme on the field and fill out the positions that need depth in quality.
The Saints finally worked with a coordinator and have given Allen the tools he needs for his scheme to work. As a result, the defense has flourished over the past few seasons.
Cameron Jordan Leads Defensive Line Stacked With Talent
Given the sample size of Dennis Allen’s unit, we can safely say this defense is now one of the most consistent in the league.
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has exploded onto the scene in 2020. A career-high seven sacks for Hendrickson has given the Saints a genuine pass rush threat opposite Jordan.
The linemen are joined by two more first-rounders in Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport. Neither boasts the stats of first-rounders yet. However, both have serious talent and are a nightmare for offenses to handle when paired with Jordan. They added former New England Patriots first-round pick Malcom Brown, who acts as an anchor in the run game which has been the real highlight of Allen’s time with the Saints.
Brown ranks 26th in the league this season amongst interior defensive lineman per Pro Football Focus. A ranking bested by his teammate David Onyemata (11th). An unheralded fourth-round pick in 2016, Onyemata earned a three-year contract extension in the off-season for good reason.
With four former first-round picks, and one late-round pick the Saints have developed into a star, the New Orleans defensive line talent lays the foundations for the whole unit’s success.
Dominant New Orleans Saints Run Defense
The athleticism on the Saints defensive line goes along way to explaining the units domination in the run game. There has been a steady improvement under Dennis Allen at stopping the run. There’s an emphasis on forcing the opposition into obvious passing situations. This strategy has won the Saints three straight NFC South crowns.
In 2020, the defense ranks second in average rushing yards per game, only allowing an average of 80.3 yards per game on the ground. They bottle up some of the best running backs in the league. After the Saints dominant win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, they extended the teams streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher in a game.
The Saints have gone 51 games (51!) without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Samaje Perine on November 19th 2017 was the last single player to rush for over 100 yards against a Dennis Allen defense, then playing for the Washington Football Team.
They are approaching an NFL record, held by the Philadelphia Eagles from 1989 to 1992. Led by the legendary Reggie White, those Eagles teams played 53 consecutive games without allowing an opposing runner to reach the 100-yard threshold.
Cameron Jordan leads the New Orleans Saints defensive line. But it sure is a talented, well-rounded unit on the cusp of a little bit of football history.
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