Saints' Cameron Jordan, Terron Armstead living up to hype

METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees was talking about receiver Marques Colston on Sunday when he said, “Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.”

But Brees just as easily could have been talking about defensive end Cameron Jordan and left tackle Terron Armstead.

A strong argument could be made that they are the New Orleans Saints' two best players outside of Brees. They’ve certainly been playing like it lately.

According to the scouting service Pro Football Focus, Jordan and Armstead each had the highest grades of their careers in Sunday’s 27-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

When asked if those PFF grades matched the way the Saints graded those players internally, coach Sean Payton said, “I don’t know who Pro Football Focus is or who the experts are that are grading the tape for them. But I would say that both of them had real good games.”

PFF’s grades always have to be taken with a grain of salt since they aren’t privy to everyone’s assignments. But their raw data details how impressive each player's performance was. They said Armstead didn’t allow a pressure in 51 snaps in pass protection. They also say Armstead hasn’t allowed a sack all year and have him ranked third among all offensive tackles in the NFL.

Jordan, meanwhile, is their No.1-ranked edge defender in the entire NFL, both because of his six sacks and his consistently good run defense. They credited Jordan with nine pressures on Sunday, including his two sacks. He also had two batted passes.

Jordan’s performance has been especially critical since the Saints just re-signed him to a five-year contract extension this summer worth between $55 million-60 million -- even though he had a down year in 2014.

The Saints had faith in Jordan’s terrific track record (he made the Pro Bowl with 12.5 sacks in 2013). And they had enough of that faith to sign him to a mega-deal even though they got burned by some of their mega-deals in 2014 for various reasons (Jairus Byrd, Jimmy Graham and Junior Galette).

“The last two weeks, he has been outstanding,” Payton said of Jordan, who had three sacks last week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Like he has throughout much of his career, Jordan has been moving around to various positions along the Saints’ line.

“He’s played well. He’s playing with good energy,” Payton said. “He’s got production inside in some of the sub-rush and also outside and also played well in the base.”

As I wrote Monday, Jordan seemed a bit skeptical about playing alongside so many young, inexperienced defensive linemen after the Saints traded away his friend and fellow lineman Akiem Hicks last month. But Jordan has been praising those young guys for their development in recent weeks.

"I think I’ve been able to pass rush better. But at this time, I’m reaping rewards of the young guys," said Jordan, who took the time to list everyone from veterans Kevin Williams and John Jenkins to rookies Tyeler Davison, Bobby Richardson, Hau'oli Kikaha and second-year pro Kasim Edebali. "I’m in the middle of Kikaha and Edebali coming off the edges, that’s elite in my book. I don’t know how we’ve played these last six games, but I know the last two games we’ve been great."