In a time where most NFL players are resting on their laurels, soaking up what is left of the offseason in advance of training camp, New Orleans Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan can't take himself away from the game he loves.
Jordan, who turns 25 tomorrow, is serving as a camp counselor at Nike's The Opening, an invite-only camp in which the nation's top high school football prospects gather to showcase their skills. Jordan is one of a few NFLers who have made their way to Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon for the week-long event.
While he is focused on offering his experiences and insight to some of prep football's finest, the thought of his own career looms in the back of his mind.
Speaking to NFL Media earlier this week, the former Cal Golden Bear, who the Saints selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, set the proverbial bar exceptionally high for himself and his teammates next season. Cameron Jordan brings down fellow 2011 draftee Cam Newton.
"I'd like to average one (sack) a game," Jordan said, "but what's really, truly important is just the whole d-line getting after quarterbacks."
Jordan recorded 12.5 sacks in 2013, the most of all 3-4 defensive ends in the league, while also leading that group with 50 Quarterback hurries. The 6-4 287 pass rush specialist also forced and recovered a pair of fumbles, as he emerged as a lynchpin of a markedly-improved Saints defense which soared from historically bad and league-worst in 2012 to the 4th overall unit in 2013. Entering his 4th NFL season, Jordan finished 2013 as Pro Football Focus' 4th-ranked 3-4 end behind only J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell and Kyle Williams.
In addition to his lofty personal goal of 16 sacks, Jordan envisions only one outcome for his team when the curtains drop at the end of the 2014 season.
"I want a Super Bowl," he said. "I'm heading into my fourth year. I need it. And it's in Arizona this year. I'm from there, and I need it."
Jordan is not the only Saint who feels this way, as Quarterback Drew Brees stated his own desire to return to the game's biggest stage, having lifted the Lombardi Trophy after the 2009 season, while Jordan was still in college. Cameron Jordan was the Saints' top pick in 2011.
"We have as good a chance as anybody," Brees told USA Today last month. "We still have a lot of work to do. But I know this: We are an extremely well-coached football team. We've got one of the best head coaches in the league, Sean Payton. Why not the New Orleans Saints? Tell me why we can't win the championship."
Cameron Jordan won't disagree with his teammate. Fresh off the first Pro Bowl selection of his young career, the owner of 21.5 sacks over the last three seasons has embraced the high expectations set by himself, his teammates, and Saints fans across the globe. Jordan has displayed versatile traits that have endeared him to 2nd year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, serving at his standard 3-4 end position as well as bumping down inside to the tackle spot in 4-3 alignments and sub-packages.
A year older, wiser and stronger, Jordan knows he has a long career in front of him, but remains humble. He was asked if he deserved to be mentioned in the same elite group of sack artists that he entered the league with three years ago: Watt, Robert Quinn, and Von Miller.
His answer was, well, quite Cameron Jordan-esque.
"It sounds bad, but I don't know if I care to be in that conversation," he said. "It's great that guys are having these astronomical numbers in different years and different stages, that just shows you the type of talent that was coming out in my year (2011)."
The 2011 draft was, indeed, loaded with talent. The Saints now have themselves a bargain in place, having exercised Jordan's fifth-year option in May. That decision was a no-brainer, as it keeps him contracted to New Orleans for just $8.4 million over the next two years. Jordan figures to continue to serve as a building block for Ryan's defense moving forward, with fellow defensive line youngsters John Jenkins and Akiem Hicks also poised to make good on their promising potential.
If he keeps producing, Cameron Jordan will land a bigger and well-deserved pay day in the near future. If his goals come to fruition, everything will take care of itself on that front. If it was up to Jordan, himself, the only pressing issue at hand is getting to Glendale in February 2015 and emerging victorious. Anything and everything else can wait.