For the past two seasons, we have watched the Cowboys complete an overhaul at the cornerback position. Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones departed via free agency, Adam Jones was waived soon after last season's end, and veteran starter Anthony Henry was traded. Since 2007, only Terence Newman, Alan Ball, and Courtney Brown remain; and the coaching staff seems unsettled as to whether Ball and/or Brown will be corners or safeties this year.
Luckily, Dallas hit on both cornerbacks the team drafted in 2008. Fifth-round choice Orlando Scandrick showed early on that he was a gem of a pick by delivering some hard hits and proving he could man the slot position. First-rounder Mike Jenkins played in 14 games and showed off his closing speed on some nice pass defenses. His athleticism helped him succeed when asked to start in place of the oft-injured Henry. It also gave the coaching staff the confidence they needed so they could move on to a younger corner opposite Newman.
Scandrick's success covering receivers in the slot has impressed the coaches, they might want him there again this upcoming season. If so, that could leave Jenkins on the outside, which is a great match for his skill set. Still, everybody wants to start. And we know Scandrick isn't the type to go down without a fight. Jenkins knows he has to earn it. To do that, he has to take his game to the next level.
More after the jump.
To get himself into shape to play at that next level, this offseason Jenkins worked out at the IMG Performance Institute, where he trained with other NFL defensive backs. While there, Jenkins spoke about what he expects to be different in 2009.
Everything. Period. Last year, I was trying to drop a lot of weight so that I could run the 40 well. I got a lot weaker. This year, I’ve gotten stronger. I’m faster. I’ve gained weight in the right places. My whole mentality is better. I don’t have to worry about anyone on my back, because I’m not a rookie. I feel like I’m back at South Florida. My whole confidence is boosted.
Stronger, faster, more confident. You've got to like that in a corner, especially one who is fighting for a starting position. Spending the summer training with other DBs has kept Jenkins in the competitive spirit.
Before I even started working out, Fabian (Washington) came to me and said, ‘It’s time for us to get it,’ because he’s in the same kind of situation I’m in with competition for a position. It’s been great here. Just coming out here and competing against other top cornerbacks. It gets really competitive. We’re known for speed as cornerbacks.
Jenkins is determined to prove how physical a corner he truly is, and he is ready to help the team win.
My personal goal is to go out and show everybody that I’m way better than what they think. I definitely think a lot of people underestimate me. I have a mean streak. I’ve knocked a couple of people out cold on the field. I just want to show everybody that I’m a man, and I’m going to hold my own. I just want us to get to the playoffs first, then we’ll talk about the Super Bowl.
We didn't get to see Jenkins on kick returns last season. That is something he's looking to change.
My rookie year, I just wanted to get in and focus on the defense. In the NFL, special teams is just like learning another position. But this year, I’m going to try and get back there for a couple.
Special teams or not, it is certain Mike Jenkins will see plenty of action on the defensive side of the ball in '09. Even though he split some first-team reps with Scandrick during the OTAs, that starting cornerback job still could go through Jenkins. But he is going to have to battle for it. It sounds like he wouldn't want it any other way.