Malcolm Jenkins is walking softly but carrying a big stick
By Matt Giraldi
A raised fist during the national anthem, in silence, for Malcolm Jenkins elicits a response.
“Stick to sports.” Things…have changed in the last 24 hours however. At the center of it (seemingly in a past life) for the Philadelphia Eagles is Malcolm Jenkins.
As an Eagles fan, there are a lot of things to be excited for today. It’s the home opener. The Eagles have a chance to go to 2-1 on the season, with both wins coming in the division. The New York Giants look like a train-wreck. Though, the national anthem is cause for trepidation. Jenkins will continue his silent protest. A looming question is whether any other Eagles players join him today.
The key for the Eagles is to prevent any potential disagreement off the field from affecting matters on the field. The image of Jenkins with teammates Chris Long and Rodney McLeod, hands on Jenkins’ back during the national anthem, signify unity on the field. Hopefully, that runs throughout the franchise.
Ultimately, unity is precisely what Jenkins provides the Eagles. A true leader on the football field. However, his football words are garnering attention in the lead-up to today’s game against the Giants. As a matter of fact, his declaration of pride towards the Eagles might be posted on a thumbtack board in the Meadowlands.
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Does it matter? Well, that all depends on whether you’re asking about the on-field or off-field issues. Jenkins appears to have a methodology for expressing himself and his beliefs. He believes that society can do better while also having the utmost confidence his team can. He’s also doing the best he can to put his money where his mouth is. Most importantly, he has the right to do both. If the Eagles organization allows employees to do so, respect their right to do so.
The decision to call the Eagles the “team to beat” could elicit a whole different response.
For now, let’s focus on what Jenkins needs to do in order to stop the Giants. When Eli Manning‘s back is to the wall, crazy things tend to happen. In order to be the “best in the division”, you have to win division games. So easy a caveman could do it. Well, the Eagles are 1-0 in the division. They lost a tight out of conference game in a tough environment. Today offers a chance at redemption.
Jenkins has done just that against the Giants. Since joining the Eagles, the team is 5-1 against the Giants. That doesn’t mean the team has played outstanding defense. The Giants have scored over 26 points in three of the games.
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Jenkins performed pretty well the last time though. He was everywhere. He disrupted Odell Beckham early in the game. He returned an interception for a touchdown. The Eagles won. The concern tomorrow is whether a depleted Eagles secondary will be able to preserve the home field advantage. Last season, the Eagles were 6-2 at home.
Speaking of home field advantage, only 34.3% of the touchdowns allowed by the Eagles all season came at home. In case you missed it, the Giants have struggled to score touchdowns this season. There’s also the concern over the offensive line
For a good portion of this season, the Eagles defense has prevented the “big play” through the air. Using data from Josh Hermsmeyer’s airyards.com, the Giants have thrown for a lot of yards, but completed only a fraction of them. They also don’t have a lot of yards after the catch. Yards after the catch has been an Achilles heel for the Eagles thus far.
The Washington Redskins made play after play Week One. Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, it seemingly took five players to take down Kareem Hunt or Travis Kelce. Jenkins and the rest of the Eagles secondary needs to make plays. The position is named safety for a reason.
Today’s protests are going to garner a lot of attention, and justifiably so. Hopefully, rationality and civility run rampant regardless of personal beliefs. On the football field, Jenkins and the rest of the Eagles have a chance to unite, and energize, their fan base for well beyond three hours. Before the game, on that same field, two minutes and change has a chance to work towards uniting, or unraveling, a country. No pressure.