Always adjusting: Jenkins learns new position
Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
Former Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins spent all of his 2009 season adjusting to the pros. Now he's spending the 2010 season adjusting to a new position.
With Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter already established as the starting cornerbacks for the defend- ing Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints, the team's selection of cornerback Patrick Robinson in the first round of the 2010 draft all but solidified Jenkins' move to safety. Jenkins said it was the Saints coaches' decision to make the move, which had been rumored since the team selected Jenkins during the 14th overall pick of the 2009 draft.
"They saw how the depth chart was shaking out, and that Darren Sharper was probably going to be on (the physically unable-to-perform list), and the depth that we have at corner," Jenkins said. "I think that they thought it would be best for the Saints."
Jenkins has started the Saints' first five games this season, filling in for the former All-Pro Sharper as he recov- ers from an offseason knee surgery. Jenkins said Sharper has shared his experience at the safety position.
"He's around all the time and lives in the same building that I live in," Jenkins said. "He's definitely mentor- ing me a lot, and we'll sit down and watch game tape together, and he'll show me what he sees or what he could have done better. I'm kind of learning on the job basically, and I think that he's helped my learning curve speed up that much."
With Sharper eligible to come off the injury list following week six, Jenkins said he doesn't have time to worry about his mentor taking his spot in the starting lineup away from him.
"It's something that's hard not to think about, but at the same time the only thing that I can control is my own performance," Jenkins said. "They need me to go out and perform and do what I do to the best of my abilities, and however that whole situation plays out, I'll just go from there."
The Saints coaches have been impressed with Jenkins' transition to safety and are excited about his future at the position.
"I think he's doing really well," Saints defensive backs coach Dennis Allen said in an e-mail. "I think the thing about Malcolm is he's an extremely hard worker. He's dedicated to his profession. He's a pro, and I think he's got instincts for the game."
Saints head coach Sean Payton echoed Allen's optimism for Jenkins' future as a safety.
"He has made a ton of progress, and the reps that he's getting at a position that's relatively new for him, he has done very well with," Payton told the media following the Saints' week one win over the Minnesota Vikings. "He has a real good football IQ. He's smart, he has real good range on the back end and he's a physical player. He's doing extremely well."
Jenkins said his performance this season has been solid but there's always room for improvement.
"I think there's, over the past five games, a couple of plays that I wish I could get back," Jenkins said. "That all comes with the learning curve. I've been playing well. Each week has just been an improvement, and I think that's the key."
The safety position is often seen as a position of leadership for a defense, often in charge of making cover- age calls for the secondary. A former captain and three-year starter at OSU, Jenkins said he's not yet ready to call himself a leader on the team.
"I think that I'm starting to mold into that leadership role," Jenkins said. "I'm not the leader of the secondary. The thing is, there are guys like Darren, Roman Harper, who have been in this league for a while. That respect is just gained through experience, gained through being accountable over and over again, and eventually that leader- ship role will come."
The 2008 Jim Thorpe Award winner for the Best Defensive Back in college football, Jenkins said his skill
set naturally lends itself to the safety position.
"I like the safety position a little more," Jenkins said. "The safety position allows me to use my range, my physicality and the things that I see on film study and be able to go make things happen."
Five games into the season, Jenkins has accumulated 23 tackles, one sack and two passes defended for the Saints, who have gotten off to a 3-2 start. Jenkins said he has yet to fully appreciate what a Super Bowl victory means, but a disappointing season might do just that.
"I really don't think I'll be able to appreciate it until I have a few seasons where I don't go," Jenkins said. "Right now, it's all I know." Allen said if the Saints don't get back to the Super Bowl, it won't be because of poor play from the safety.
"I know a guy is going to be a really good player at that position if he's got instincts for the game and if he's such a hard worker," Allen said. "Those guys succeed, and Malcolm will succeed."