In evaluating the free agent signing of Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, I decided to break down the coaches film from the 14 games he played with the New Orleans Saints in 2013. I wanted to get a feel for what he does well, what his limitations are, and see how he projects into the Eagles secondary that struggled mightily last season.
When he was signed, I wasn’t particularly impressed, as I had other players pegged higher on the wish list. Even after watching hours of tape on Jenkins I’m not overly enthusiastic about the move, however I can see the appeal that may have snared the Eagles front office and coaching staff. Jenkins is definitely an upgrade at that position from what they trotted out last season. I think it can be a successful marriage if the Eagles are wise enough to keep his liabilities from being exposed.
One of the first things you notice about Jenkins on tape is his football IQ. He is an experienced, smart football player. He constantly communicates with his teammates, both in the secondary and the front seven. He truly is like the quarterback of the defense. Now he is more of a game manager quarterback than what I would consider a franchise quarterback, meaning he is not elite. However, after watching the misaligned, ill-prepared morass at safety from last year, it will be a blessing to have Jenkins to ensure everyone knows their assignment at least. His presence alone should cut down on the numerous busted coverages that plagued Philadelphia in 2013.
Jenkins has played corner back before, and displays a fluidity in his back pedal that is usually reserved for that position. He doesn’t have great hips but they are adequate. I think when he gets matched up in man coverage he does a pretty good job overall, however that is due mainly to his route recognition, not because of superior athleticism. He can be exposed in turn and run situations where he failed to diagnose route combinations early.
The Saints kept him in a lot of single high safety looks, and I noticed he was consistently 20 yards off the ball at the snap. This must have been by design of their scheme, so it will be interesting to see if that carries over to his time with the Eagles. From that deep of a position he was very slow to react to crossing routes across his face, and has a habit of taking poor pursuit angles. I think both those issues could be helped if he shortened his depth in cover three or man free.
Jenkins is a willing tackler, and is aggressive in run support, at least for someone who was previously a corner. He is physical, and he can be fiesty at times. But what I love most is that he is a hustler. He is relentless when he pursues the ball. I think that trait rubs off on teammates and can help a defense stay hungry and agitated. I wouldn’t consider Jenkins an alley player or in the box safety, however there were times in goal line situations where he was effective shooting gaps to make plays in the backfield.
Overall, I think that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, defensive coordinator Billy Davis, and general manager Howie Roseman knew exactly what they were getting in Jenkins. A high character, intelligent athlete with tremendous leadership. He also has a pedigree and swagger that compensates for his limitations. I would love to see more ball skills and turnover creation, but hopefully he is placed into positions where he can provide a steadying force for a shaky secondary.