Relishing in the rush
METAIRIE —When Cameron Jordan was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2011 draft, they saw him as much more than just another defensive end who could rush the passer.
The ability of the 6-foot-4, 287-pounder to stop the run and slide inside to a defensive tackle spot, which he did occasionally at Cal and would do a few times late in his rookie season, was just one of them.
But the affable Jordan, the son of longtime Minnesota Vikings tight end Steve Jordan, has added another dimension to his game under new Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
When Jordan isn’t getting down and dirty inside at tackle, Spagnuolo has been using the second-year pro in his zone-blitz package that calls for a cornerback to rush the passer while an end drops into coverage.
It’s a role Jordan is relishing so far, telling reporters Saturday that he has “sweet feet” to cover tight ends and even wide receivers downfield.
“When a defensive coordinator and a player have two different dreams, they don’t always collide very well,” Jordan said of Spagnuolo. “But it’s so great for me because I see myself as a versatile player, and he sees me as playing so many different roles.
“So we come together, and it’s great for me. I think anything he allows me to do, I can do. I’m all for it.”
Maybe, but interim head coach Joe Vitt wasn’t so sure about Jordan’s self-proclaimed sweet feet in pass coverage. He is, however, pleased so far with what he’s seen.
“That’s not my description,” Vitt said when asked about Jordan’s comment. “He’s got a long way to go with coverage. We’ll see how versatile he is when the game starts. He doesn’t have sweet feet.”
Jordan got his foot in the door right away a year ago even though he didn’t have the luxury of learning the system run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams because of the owners lockout.
He started 15 regular-season games and one of their two playoff games, recording 59 tackles in the regular season and nine more in the postseason. But he’s looking forward to a lot more no matter where he lines up.
“The coaches are a little more confident in what I can do this year,” Jordan said. “I’m more confident in what I can do, and I’m starting to mesh with the other guys and the system. I’m really excited about this year.”
Vitt is excited as well, noting that many youngsters make a big jump between their rookie season and year two.
“Cam was a starter for us last year and he came to camp in outstanding shape,” he said, adding that Jordan dropped 10 pounds from last season. “You understand the daily grind, you understand the daily lifting, you understand the daily preparation.
“It takes most people a year to get adjusted, that’s where you see the biggest growth spurt of a player who’s really going to be something in the NFL.”
“I know what to expect from the league with a season behind me,” Jordan said. “There’s still a lot to learn, and there’s still so much I can learn from the veterans on the team as well as from the game itself.”
While most ends don’t like being moved inside because they like playing the more-glamorous role of rushing the passer, Jordan, who had just one sack last season, is relishing the chance to tangle occasionally with bigger guards and centers.
“You’re going to get a double-team every play, maybe even get a triple-team every now and then,” he said with a laugh. “That’s awesome. It’s a lot more physical, but I just want to be as versatile as I can be.”
Despite not having an offseason program to familiarize himself with the defense last season, Jordan said it took him only about three weeks of training camp to start feeling comfortable.
“When you’re lining up and playing every day against (Saints tackles) Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief, you’re going against the upper echelon of linemen,” he said. “I figured if I could hold my own against them, I’d be able to do this (in the regular season).
“Run defense kind of comes second nature to me, so it’s time to develop the pass rush,” said Jordan. “That’s what I’ve been working on, the deficiencies I have. There’s a lot more that I can do to enhance my own abilities.”
Practice time changes
The team announced that Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices will be from 8:50-11:30 a.m., with only Tuesday’s being open to the public.