With the college game sparse with 3-4 defensive systems, the University of California is one of the few major FBS schools that offers NFL talent evaluators the opportunity to see their players in that kind of scheme. Shining in the Bears system the past three seasons has been DE Cameron Jordan.
Blessed with capable size (6'4" 287) and a skill set to match, Jordan looks the part when it comes to a defensive end role in a 3-4 front. A four-year starter, Jordan has provided consistent production, even this past season when he was the focal point of opposing blocking schemes.
Jordan set career marks in tackles (62) and tackles for loss (12.5) and had 5.5 sacks as a senior. Though he came to Cal as little more than a pass rusher, Jordan believes the Bears defensive system has turned him into a far more versatile player.
"I think it's been nothing but an advantage in my position (playing in the 3-4)," Jordan said. "I've played three-technique, four-technique, five-technique pretty much for my last three years. I played 4-3 my freshman year, so I've done it all. I just want to get on the field and play football."
Jordan has 16.5 sacks in his college career, but his role in Cal's 3-4 is to stand in there and occupy blockers while his linebackers make plays. By no means is defensive end a glamour position in such a defensive scheme, but Jordan is good with it.
"At Cal that's all we do is dirty work. You put your hard hat on, put your hand on the ground and you go to work. That's what we do. Whether it's inside at tackle or end I'm just trying to hit somebody and put my hands in their chest and drive them back."
Driving opposing blockers back is what Jordan appears to do best. He doesn't have a lightning-quick burst off the snap and is not going to blow by offensive tackles at his size. His combination of upper and lower body strength however, with long arms allows him to overwhelm offensive linemen. Jordan often drives a lineman back and then tosses them when it's time to disengage and make the tackle.
"This is a chance for me to show my abilities," he said. "I'm trying to do the best that I can against anybody that wants to go against me on the line. If it's an offensive guy against me I'm going to beat him. I don't know how. I don't know where. If he puts his hand down against me I'm going to beat him."
And that was the case at the North Team Senior Bowl practice on Tuesday. Jordan doesn't mind kicking inside to tackle as long as he has a penetrating role, but admits he feels at home on the edge and it showed in the practice setting. He was clearly the most dominant performer in one-on-one pass rush drills. He won twice on outside rush moves as he displayed an effective rip move. He later countered that with a nice shoulder dip move that got him under the inside shoulder of the opposing lineman.
"I don't mind getting my hands dirty (inside), but I'd prefer to do pass rush in there because guys are little bit bigger and slower and it's a lot easier for me to get by them. Same thing with five-technique. Guys are big and long and lanky and I can chop them down a little bit easier."
In 11-on-11 work Tuesday the results made him true to his word. Jordan had a would-be sack on Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi as he looped around from behind following a successful outside move. The next series he had another quarterback pressure flushing Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick from the pocket.
By no means is Jordan satisfied with his game. He's been working with the Cincinnati coaching staff to polish up his hand work this week.
"Hand placement within the pass rush," he said. "My arms sort of go full length because I'm trying to get the first three steps down hard, quick, fast and long, and through that I've got to keep my hands up. With running you always do the rotation with your hands, but as long as you keep them in the box so it's all in front of your chest."
Jordan realizes that if he puts together a good week his stock could rise even higher from where it is now, as he's largely considered a late first-round prospect. For now he's just happy to have the chance to show just how multi-faceted his game can be for NFL clubs.
"If it improves my stock, I'm blessed for it and happy about it," he said. "I'm here just trying to showcase my talents. I'm trying to prove to teams that I am versatile and there is a reason why Cal used me in so many different positions. And I can be used in the same way in the league for any team that wants me."