The first OTA session for the Dallas Cowboys is this week. There is a lot to look forward to as the team will get the first chance to see some of the rookies go up against the established players for the first time. (Morris Claiborne and Kyle Wilber will be out due to injury, and Matt Johnson is still in school.) It will be the first real chance to try and evaluate whether the sometimes overflowing optimism about the draftees and UDFAs is justified, or just a bit of Kool Aid overdose.
But a new concern has cropped up over whether cornerback Mike Jenkins will be there.
Jason Garrett says he is hopeful Mike Jenkins shows up for OTAs Tuesday, but he has no indication whether the CB will show up.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) May 21, 2012
Jenkins has already stayed away from all voluntary team activities this year, citing his injuries, but he also was reported to have requested a trade. While Jerry Jones has stated he has no intention of a trading him, this still has to raise some questions about just how committed Jenkins is to playing for the Cowboys.
If Jenkins does show up for the OTA, then it will likely just become a matter of how well he does on the field. But if he doesn't, then it seems that it may signal that his time with the Cowboys is drawing rapidly to a close.
Looking deeper into the situation after the jump.
Jenkins was part of a Dallas secondary in 2011 that was frequently abused by other teams and maligned through much of the season here at BTB. Terence Newman had clearly lost his speed and ability to cover, being reduced to little more than a low hurdle in some notably embarrassing plays, and Jenkins had to fight through injuries much of the season. While he certainly deserves credit for gutting it out and trying to help the team, his actual performance did leave much to be desired. That, and the lack of capable backups on the team, led to the team making the secondary the number one priority of the offseason, as Rob Ryan made clear when asked what he was interested in at the Senior Bowl.
"I'm only looking at DBs. Nothing else. DBs."
This was clearly a completely truthful statement, as the two biggest offseason moves made by the team were the acquisition of Brandon Carr in free agency and the blockbuster trade to move up in the first round of the draft and pluck defensive plum Morris Claiborne. They also addressed the safety position by signing free agent Brodney Pool and using their supplemental fourth round pick on Matt Johnson. Suddenly the secondary appears to have gone from being the Achilles' heel of the defense to possibly becoming the key to letting Ryan successfully unleash his complex and chaotic defensive schemes.
But at this moment, Jenkins may be giving indications of interpreting all this as meaning he is no longer needed or even wanted. There is certainly a possibility that Carr and Pick 6 will be the starting cornerbacks at some point in the season. However, that does not mean that the team cannot use an experienced and, at least in the past, very talented third CB. It would certainly not be a surprise for a rookie, even one as highly touted as Claiborne, to not be the starter for the opening of the season, which would lead us to expect Jenkins to retain the job. And the owner has clearly stated that there is a role for Jenkins.
This is the last year of Jenkins' current contract, so it is certainly a possibility that the Cowboys would not be highly motivated to re-sign him for 2013. Still, that should be an excellent motivation for him to go out and try to showcase his worth to the rest of the league.
It is impossible to know if this is some kind of a holdout on Jenkins' part, or a real issue with his injured shoulder. But the fact that he is apparently not availing himself of the team's resources during his rehab does raise some level of suspicion. If he is staying away due to a lack of motivation or a desire to go somewhere else, this seems a rather dangerous course. Appearing to be a malcontent is not the best way to attract interest in one's services from other teams. And Jason Garrett seems to be implementing his vision for the team from top to bottom. From what I can see from my admittedly restricted viewpoint, Mike's approach does not seem to fit very well with what JG5000 is doing. Nor does there seem to be any hesitancy these days in cutting loose players when they are no longer seen as fitting the needs of the organization. And there are several young players very eager to claim a vacant spot on the roster at cornerback, including Mario Butler, Isaac Madison, Lionel Smith, Justin Taplin-Ross, C. J. Wilson, and Teddy Williams.
This may all become moot if Jenkins shows up for the OTA, or at least communicates that he is planning on being there when he is recovered. But until then, his status is under a bit of a cloud.