Mike Jenkins is easily the most perplexing player on this football team in recent memory. After drafting the cornerback with the 25th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, I thought we had finally landed the cornerback I have always wanted the Cowboys to get. His rookie season wasn't exactly sunshine and rainbows, but he did leave us wondering what could be with a pick six when the Giants blew us out on the road that year.
Then comes the wonderful 2009 season where Jenkins finally grew into the player the Cowboys had envisioned when they drafted him. Jenkins made the 2009 Pro Bowl (though as an alternate) with a 55% success rate and a 5.4 YPA, good for 9th in the NFL that year. What we saw from him in 2009 was exactly what we needed to succeed as a good defense. Jenkins was a ball hawk that year and locked down wide receivers. He had no problem shadowing them down the field and at times ran the routes better than his opponent.
During the 2010 offseason, Jenkins made some unflattering remarks concerning the upcoming season. Here are his comments from May 24 2010.
"No doubt, I feel like it's nothing but a title," Jenkins said. "For me, anybody can be a Pro Bowler. You can have a great year and come back the next year and get torched. All I want to do is come back and be a team player."
Well you did exactly that Mike, you got torched. I attempted to find his other comments that puzzled me and it took me a little while to dig them up but with the wonders of Google, I found them! Here are his comments from June 15 2010.
“I’ve got a Pro Bowl under my belt, so that’s one of the goals I don’t even have to work for,” Jenkins said. “I feel like my job right now is easier, so I don’t have to work as hard. I can just go on and ride that roller-coaster and keep playing.”
This interview really got under my skin when I first read it. Now Mike Jenkins is a guy whose game is really based off of confidence and swagger. But there comes a point where one becomes too cocky and arrogant, that isn't swagger. Having swagger is one thing, being cocky and arrogant is a totally different state of mind.
After reading those comments I was ultimately concerned about Jenkins heading into the 2010 season. Jenkins had a miserable season where we saw his success rate drop from 55% in 2009 to just 37% in 2010. We also saw his YPA go from 5.4% in 2009 increase to 11.4% in 2010. That's a huge jump in 6 more yards per attempt, not good.
Perhaps the most disturbing number was the amount of yards he surrendered last year. In 2009 Jenkins gave up a modest 535 yards. In 2010 Jenkins gave up a league leading 968 yards and was burned for big plays repeatedly. It was not a pretty sight watching #21 play football. His deep numbers looked even worse, in 2009 he had a 78% success rate, giving up 168 yards for a 3.3 YPA. In 2010 those numbers jumped to a 47% success rate, giving up a whopping 691 yards and 13.0 YPA. The deep ball was giving him fits all season long in 2010.
Teams would target Jenkins where in the past they may not have targeted him. Jenkins became the poster boy of the big play burn on the Dallas Cowboys. It was the most bizarre thing I have witnessed by a cornerback in over 20 plus years of watching football for me. I have never seen a cornerback go from being so good, 5.4% YPA is Darrelle Revis status, and end up being so bad after just one season.
I truly believe that Jenkins was over confident and just too cocky for his own good during the 2010 preseason. You know once he started getting smoked like ganja in a Cheech and Chong movie that his confidence was way down. A cornerback needs to be confident and Jenkins lost all of that confidence during a terrible 2010 season. Not only was he getting beat, he was being penalized more than he ever had before.
Dave Campo agreed about confidence being a huge factor. Here is what secondary coach Dave Campo had to say on the issue back in July.
“I think confidence was an issue there,” Campo said. “When they started getting a few of those penalties – which, I’ve got to be careful so I don’t get fined – but there were some things that kind of put it in the back of his mind, ‘We can’t let that happen.’ He’s just got to play football because he’s a good football player.”
During the lockout and offseason, Jenkins had a lot of soul searching to do. I don't think the problem will ever be physical with Jenkins, it will always be a mental one. Jenkins suffered a stinger early on during training camp and that kept him from basically participating in any of the training camp practices. He did his best to workout in individual drills and take "mental" reps when he was on the sideline during the games.
With Jenkins missing all of the preseason I wrote a fan post dedicated to him. In Where Art Thou Mike Jenkins? I wrote a personal letter to Mr. Jenkins at the end, begging him to find himself and come home to us. It was highly questionable if Jenkins would be able to play against the Jets in the season opener, but Jenkins showed up and played great football. I can't even count how many times Jenkins left the game or was on the ground in pain. No matter what though, Jenkins prevailed and fought through it.
Jenkins took a blindside hit from league poster boy Plaxico Burress and looked to be out of the game. Instead Jenkins came back and had a nice dirt slam tackle on nice guy Plaxico Burress. Here is what Mike had to say about the incident.
“I heard a lot of riff-raffing when he hit me,” Jenkins said. “He was selling out. That’s pretty much when I came back I had to hit him to let him know I was back out there.”
Head coach Jason Garrett even went on to say that the performance Jenkins gave was "inspirational" and I agree. When a player who had an awful season the year before and is starting to be questioned for being soft has a game like that, you recognize it. That's exactly what our head coach did, he let the team know what Jenkins did was the type of stuff Garrett is looking for.
It has only been two games into the 2011 season, but so far so good for Mike Jenkins. His stat line is 3-7 attempts, 36 yards and a 5.1% YPA. If he can manage to keep those type of numbers up he will make the Pro Bowl once again. Jenkins knows the Pro Bowl isn't the goal anymore, even though individual accomplishments would be nice, it's the playoffs and Super Bowl that is the ultimate goal for this team. We need to take it one game at a time and Jenkins is well aware of that now.
At the end of the day it's great to see Jenkins playing at the level I know he can play at. He is better than the league leading 968 yards he gave up in 2010. What Jenkins has clearly shown us so far is that he has heart and isn't soft after all. That is a great start to the season for Jenkins and I hope he keeps it up. His coverage has been much better and even though he let up a touchdown last week in the 49ers game, he generally had pretty good coverage over all. I think we are going to see more of the 2009 Mike Jenkins than the 2010 Mike Jenkins. What a welcomed sight to see #21 playing more like #21 again.
If Jenkins can finally heal up and play at 100 percent he could have an even better season than he did in 2009. It really sucks that this guy is really only playing at 70-80 percent. He is battling a knee, stinger and shoulder injury all at once. The bye week will do this secondary wonders in getting healthy all at once. Regardless of the injuries, it's nice to know that Jenkins may have finally come home to us as the old Mike Jenkins.
Roscoe Mike Jenkins