Two plus two is five. Even if you’re insistent that the aforementioned statement is false, those numbers were computed by a formula you don’t understand, by observations that don’t necessarily factor all situations into the equation, and perhaps the most important reason why it has to be true, it’s on the internet (I’m also a French model). Pro Football Focus (PFF), a football statistician’s Graceland, has recently come into focus (pardon the pun) when comparing the Philadelphia Eagles recent acquisition in safety Malcolm Jenkins to former Eagles safeties Patrick Chung and Nate Allen. The safety rankings in 2012 ranked Malcolm Jenkins as the worst safety in the NFL, and last season Jenkins finished below any member of the Philadelphia Eagles secondary. What is important to realize for us fans is that if PFF was the baseline for determining a football player’s value or expected production, Jenkins would not have been a coveted target of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Last July Pro Football Focus published articles grading the best players at their respective position over the duration of the website’s existence. A prime example for refuting the current debate on Jenkins and the slop that’s played in the Eagles’ secondary is referencing the website’s rankings for the running backs. New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas was ranked as the third best running back over the sampled time period ahead of Houston Texans running back Arian Foster or Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. Ball security and a higher average of yards per carry were heavily weighted while evaluating the running backs, however nary a word regarding pass protection nor receiving ability out of the backfield were referenced. While the site specifically mentions that rushing rating is solely the determining factor in the rankings, talent evaluation in football cannot be broken into snippets that fit specifics the writer chooses. This isn’t a slight against Pro Football Focus as the website is perhaps the most in-depth statistical database for the sport, but context is vital prior to elaborating on numbers.
For myself, I envision Malcolm Jenkins as a key component of a defense on the mend, but not the saving grace for the secondary. Versatility is Jenkins’ absolute strongest attribute as he has experience as both a corner back and a safety. Last season, Jenkins spent the most time in the New Orleans Saints’ secondary covering the slot wide receiver. Known widely as a poor tackler, particularly against the run (flashes of Asante Samuel), Jenkins is not going to be laying the wood like former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins or even Michael Lewis. But it’s vital to remember there are also ten other members of the Eagles defense that are able to aid in run support, a presumed weakness of the newly acquired Jenkins. If Jenkins is able to assist in tackling or force the ball carrier to the wrong gap, the front seven should be ready to finish the job. As is the case each year, the dust has not settled on the finished product for the Philadelphia Eagles. The current shape of the roster is yet to be finalized, the secondary still can be improved in the upcoming NFL Draft, and last year’s numbers are in the past. For all the cynics, let’s focus on the future of the Philadelphia Eagles football.