Janoris Jenkins: The Numbers, The Tape, The Verdict

JanorisJenkins copy

He’s not superman yet, but Rams fans certainly hope he will be someday.

Writers of all kinds are always looking for the perfect story. In sports, the perfect story needs two things: a star player and controversy.For that reason, some thought they had hit the jackpot during the 2012 NFL draft. Typically draft coverage centers around the stars at the top, with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III that was the case in 2012, but there was one player who ultimately went in the second round who was a writer’s dream.

On the field, analysts saw him as a superstar, off of it, reporters could constantly point to different aspects of his college life that could be perceived as controversial. Whether it was for his family life, his drug usage, his multiple arrests or his dismissal from the Florida football team, Janoris Jenkins was put under more scrutiny than any other 2012 draft prospect. That scrutiny was enough to push him down in the draft, but his talent was such that he wouldn’t be allowed to fall too far. Unlike Justin Houston, who fell from the first round to the third previously, Jenkins’ talents kept him close to the first round as he went 39th overall.

Just as he had done with Adam Jones, Jeff Fisher took a chance on Jenkins and looked to use him extensively during his rookie season. In fact, Jenkins would start from Week 1 and play 15 games during his rookie year.

Although Morris Claiborne and Stephon Gilmore were taken early in the first round, much of the talk during the season was about Jenkins. Obviously his story off the field created intrigue that carried over into the regular season, but Jenkins also had a nose for finding the football, which put the spotlight on him regularly. He announced himself with an interception early on in his first game against the Detroit Lions, before later returning his three other interceptions for touchdowns and recovering a fumble against the San Francisco 49ers for a touchdown.

Timing was huge for Jenkins. His first touchdown shaped his early season perception, while making the biggest play of the Rams’ biggest game of the season made most presume that he had played that way all season long. Alas, turnovers don’t determine how good a defensive back really is. Unless of course they can create many more than the four that Jenkins did and on a year-to-year basis.

In order to truly understand how well the rookie performed on the field, his tape needs to undergo the extensive analysis of the PSR DB Series.

Explaining the Process

Qualifying Plays:
Plays that count:

  • Every snap that has the cornerback in man coverage no matter where the ball is thrown.
  • The above includes sacks, quarterback scrambles and plays where the defensive back has safety help.

Plays that don’t count:

  • Screen plays. Even if the receiver isn’t part of the screen, these plays do not count.
  • Plays where either the receiver or cornerback doesn’t follow through his whole assignment.
  • Zone plays. Any ambiguity in this area will disqualify a play.
  • Any prevent coverage situations.
  • Receptions in the flat without a route run.
  • Running plays(duh!). Including designed quarterback runs.

Failed Coverages:

The ball does not have to be thrown in the defensive back’s direction for the coverage to fail. This is NOT an alysis of how many completions the cornerback allowed, that can be found elsewhere, this is an analysis of how good his coverage is on any given play.

Failed coverages can come at any point of the route, but it is subjective to where the players are on the field in relation to the quarterback. Typically, defensive backs must be within arms reach for underneath/intermediate routes. On deeper passes, there is greater leeway given to the defender.

Failed coverages can be subjective. They must be determined by the situation considering the length of the play and other such variables.

Shut Down:

This category is reserved for those plays when receivers would have to make superhuman catches to beat the coverage. The best example of this is when receivers line up wide and try to run down the sideline, but the defensive back gradually guides them towards the sideline, suffocating the space they have to catch the football in. If a receiver is on the white sideline, he is shut down.

In Position:

This is the opposite of a failed coverage. In order to be ‘In Position’, a defensive back has to be in a position to prevent a relatively well-thrown pass to his assignment.


Davone Bess

Davone Bess was just one of the lesser known wide receivers who had success against Jenkins.

 Wide Receiver Success-Individual Matchups



Successful Snaps/Coverage Snaps



Davone Bess




Jordy Nelson




James Jones




Mario Manningham




Stevie Johnson




Michael Floyd




Titus Young




Brandon Marshall




Randy Moss




Aldrick Robinson




Mike Williams




Marlon Moore




Larry Fitzgerald




Brandon Lloyd




Edmund Gates




Alshon Jeffery




Vincent Jackson




Jerome Simpson




Deion Branch




Andre Roberts




Golden Tate





65 / 164



3.1 / 7.81


*Those with less than four snaps against Jenkins were not included.

Normally at this stage of the breakdown we go into week-by-week analysis of how the specific player performed during the season. However, even though Jenkins played 591 snaps in pass coverage, he had only 207 qualifying plays for the man coverage exam. This is because the Rams played primarily in zone coverage last season.

The sample is too small to really breakdown into minute detail, but his flaws are still easily assessed. Jenkins was a rookie who played a lesser level of college football during his final year. This really showed on the field as he consistently made poor decisions. Jenkins played the game with an aggressive mindset that allowed him to create some turnovers, however it also made him vulnerable to big plays down the field on a consistent basis.

Jenkins often looked lost and didn’t show off the long-speed to recover from his mistakes early on in plays. This was probably the most surprising aspect of his play because he is maybe the most fluid mover on the field that I have watched and has an exceptional burst over short-yardage. With more experience and the right direction, he should be able to keep himself out of these situations in the future, but as a rookie his decision-making and susceptibility to moves at the line of scrimmage took him out of way too many plays.

It can’t be determined from just watching film, but it did appear that Jenkins was too confident and had a ‘me-first’ attitude. Obviously this is sheer speculation, but it is speculation based on how he often looked to bait the quarterback, purposely let receivers beat him before failing to catch up, pulled up on plays before they were finished and he never really played with the intensity that reflected a competitor.

2012 NFL Season Total:
Total qualifying plays: 207
Failed coverages: 69
Shutdowns: 18
In Position: 118
Success rate for the season: 66.6%

In Slot:
Total qualifying plays: 7
Failed coverages: 4
Success rate: 42.9%

 Left cornerback:
Total qualifying plays:24
Failed coverages: 12
Success rate: 50%

 Right cornerback:
Total qualifying plays: 176
Failed coverages: 53
Success rate: 69.9%

Success v Specific Routes
Seam 11/18
Flat 1/1
Post 5/8
Crossing 4/11
Out 11/16
Curl 28/41
Double Move 1/5
Slant 15/27
In 13/23

In a sense, Jenkins really reminded me of Asante Samuel. Samuel is likely what he will one day become: A cornerback who is repeatedly going to give up plays, but also a cornerback who quarterbacks will fear throwing at. Unfortunately, Jenkins also has that same tackling trait.

Since it’s not worth focusing on Jenkins’ man coverage, because he will likely be a very different player even next season, it’s time for the PSR DB Series to adapt and evolve with it’s subject matter. Let’s start off with that tackling (in)ability…


According to Pro Football Focus, Jenkins missed 18 tackles last year. Honestly, when I read that number I was surprised it was that low. Missing tackles for a cornerback isn’t a major issue, but the way Jenkins missed his was demoralizing. Often a receiver would catch the ball in an extended position that exposed him to a big hit. Jenkins would be incredibly aggressive and fly towards the football, but too often he would keep on flying and go right passed the player in the open field.

Of course, because he was rarely put on an island, those plays normally had a defender behind him waiting to clean up and reduce the damage. That wasn’t always the case when Jenkins missed a tackle though and his attempt against the Washington Redskins that led to Robert Griffin III’s first rushing touchdown showed off his recurring problems with tackling.

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Here Jenkins appears to be in a perfect position to come down and tackle Griffin before he can escape outside of the edge. While he fills the right lane and is in a position to make a form tackle on the quarterback, he comes in way too quickly and is out of control so much so that when Griffin plants his foot to cut inside, Jenkins has no chance to bring him down.

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Recently I broke down the New York Jets’ Antonio Cromartie. If you read that piece, you should remember that Cromartie was a very able, but very unwilling tackler. Cromartie had the strength and size to hit offensive players without making a form tackle, but he could also make form tackles when he looked to. Jenkins can hit receivers when he times it right, but not always, and while he is a very willing tackler, he needs to learn to control himself and slow down.

Obviously the NFL plays the fastest pace of football across the world, but control will always outweigh speed in terms of importance.

This lack of control is a major issue in all types of coverage also.

Big Coverage Mistakes

There is an old saying, I have no idea of it’s origins and the exact wording may be off, but it goes ‘Once you get there, don’t change from what got you there in the first place.’ Jenkins needs to do the opposite. He played the game like he was still playing for North Alabama. He didn’t worry about giving up position to receivers or trying to bait quarterbacks into throwing his way, he trusted his athletic ability to give him a chance to play the ball in the air or even undercut it for a touchdown.

Not to disrespect the standard of opponent that North Alabama faced on a week-to-week basis, but that type of game doesn’t work in the NFL. Jenkins doesn’t have that long-speed or burst going backwards to bait quarterbacks into throwing him then ball. He can’t run with receivers down the field unless he already has a cushion, at least, he didn’t consistently last year.

Jenkins plays cornerback as if it were Russian roulette with no bullets. In the NFL every gun doesn’t just have a bullet, more often than not it’s fully loaded. According to Pro Football Focus, Jenkins gave up five touchdowns last year. Those are the touchdowns that were actually scored, the number his coverage gave up was more than double that figure.

Let’s look at the five touchdowns he did give up.

1. Week 2: The Washington Redskins’ Leonard Hankerson.

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Jenkins and Hankerson are to the top of the screen. Jenkins is eight or nine yards off of him at the snap. The Redskins are going to run two play-actions on the one play here. First Griffin will drop back and fake a handoff to Alfred Morris, lined up in the deep running-back position above, before then faking a handoff to Josh Morgan who runs behind the formation on a reverse. While this is happening, Hankerson runs  directly down the seam, passed where Jenkins’ inside shoulder is in the above image.

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Hankerson runs straight by Jenkins and on first viewing it’s inexplicable. Jenkins appears to just not cover the receiver as he never really gets into full stride until Hankerson is already too far down the field for him to get back into the play.

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The broadcast angle allows us to see why Jenkins is initially beat. Very early on in the play, his eyes flip into the backfield to watch the play-action. Even at this late stage, when Griffin has already turned and is looking down the field, Jenkins is still trying to figure out where the ball is by looking in the backfield.

Once he realizes that Griffin is looking his direction to pass the ball, he attempts to knock Hankerson off his route instead of turning and trusting his speed to run with him. He likely made the right decision, but that is only because he isn’t fast enough to run with Hankerson when he is already in stride. There was a lot of inexperience and a lack of awareness shown on this play, but also that very important physical limitation.

Jenkins may be able to run 40 yards in the 4.4 range, but that speed doesn’t translate well to games on Sundays.

2. Week 6: The Miami Dolphins’ Marlon Moore

This play is a great example of a cornerback taking an unnecessary risk. There can be many reasons for this. It’s still very unclear if Jenkins is doing this out of inexperience, coaching, natural instinct or selfishness. How his career unfolds will likely give us a better idea.

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Forget Jenkins. Forget Moore. Forget everyone on the field for a moment.

The first thing you must note about this play is the situation. As the image above shows, it’s second down and five. Where the first down sticks are is very important for how this play develops. The Rams are leading 6-0, there is just under six minutes left in the second quarter. A touchdown for the Dolphins here would be huge for their morale moving into the second half.

Now, let’s get to the players. Jenkins is at the bottom of the screen. He has lined up in off coverage with no safety help and the closest defensive back in press coverage against the slot receiver. He has no help at all on this play.

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The Rams blitz and the Dolphins react by just sending three receivers into routes. The Rams are playing man coverage with their three cornerbacks, while the safety deep is playing center field. Crucially, Cortland Finnegan and Bradley Fletcher are looking at their receivers, but Jenkins is staring at the quarterback in the backfield.

It’s easy to understand his thought process, the Rams have sent so many defenders that the ball should have to come out quickly. He’s staring at the quarterback so he can proactively attack the ball to get the interception ahead of his receiver if it comes his way.

However, Jenkins’ thought process is myopic. The Rams have sent seven defenders, but the Dolphins have kept in seven blockers. They have enough players to pick up the blitz, so Tannehill will have more time to throw.

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Jenkins allows Moore to beat him by simply standing still, but as soon as Moore goes to his outside, he springs forward looking to anticipate a quick out route or curl. Remember, Jenkins was positioned exactly where the first down marker was, so he is thinking that the Dolphins will try to get outside of him for a quick first down.

While Jenkins is doing this however, the Dolphins’ offensive line has picked up the Rams’ blitz and Tannehill shows the poise in the pocket to step up while keeping his eyes downfield. Tannehill is watching Moore and he sees him come wide open because he is in stride moving down the sideline while all of Jenkins’ weight has been shifted onto his front foot.

Jenkins needs to push off, pivot, accelerate and keep his speed to get back to Moore. All that takes significantly more time than Tannehill affords him because the pass comes quickly.

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Moore even has time to slow down and adjust to the lofted pass, while Jenkins is pulling up knowing that he has been beaten.

Understanding situations is very important for defensive backs. Knowing what you can give up to a receiver in any specific scenario can make your job so much easier. Had Jenkins played this route honestly, he would have easily covered the receiver and potentially been able to win a battle for an interception if Tannehill had floated the pass like he did. Had Moore run the out route with Jenkins not over committing to it in the way that he did, it would still have needed to be an outstanding pass from Tannehill and even at that Jenkins would have had a chance because of his short area burst.

On a play when Jenkins thought he was being smart and raising his opportunity to create a turnover, he was actually taking himself completely away from the football and hurting both his chances at an interception and his team’s chances of winning the game.

3. Week 7: Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb.

With hindsight everything is obvious, so it’s unfair to be too harsh on players for not making the right moves in certain situations. We get to break down plays frame-by-frame for hours if we want, they get less than a second to make their decision and have no rewind button.

That said, we must still point out mistakes when they are persistently made.

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Space is vital. Space is always vital no matter what you do on the field, but for a defensive back, the importance is multiplied. When that defensive back moves into the slot, it multiplies again. Jenkins gives up a touchdown here because he doesn’t understand space. He is lined up over Randall Cobb on the inside slot of the three receivers to the top of the screen. There are four defensive backs to that side of the field, but Jenkins is the closest one to the center of the field.

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The Packers’ initially appear to be trying to rub their receivers past each other to try and create a situation where two defensive backs will run into each other. However, the Rams drop one of the defensive backs to the outside of the endzone when Jordy Nelson comes infield. This means that the three defensive backs to his inside are all coming to the same spot, where Nelson and the other receivers are converging.

Jenkins has played this the way he should to this point. He has to go with Cobb in that direction, while still being in a position to tackle Nelson if Rodgers tries to throw it to him underneath his other receivers.

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This is the point when Jenkins loses the play. There is a defender coming free underneath to tackle Jordy Nelson, while the other defneder(red star over his head) is blocking Cobb’s route to the outside. James Jones(number 99) is running towards the pylon where the Rams have a defender waiting. This means that Jenkins should be looking to gain some depth rather than chase Cobb tightly to the outside.

Jenkins is coming forward, we can see that by his feet and body shape, which doesn’t make sense because he doesn’t have to catch up to Cobb in that area of the field. Ultimately, all it does is expose the space in behind him.

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Cobb is very quick, but he’s not exceptionally quick on this turn. He gets around the corner, but Jenkins has taken himself out of the play by being too aggressive playing the out route. All of Jenkins’ weight was coming forward. Had he kept his feet beneath him and droppped a step deeper, he would still have been in position to cover the out route through traffic, a route that is a tough touch throw for the quarterback, while also being able to stop the cutback into the middle of the field.

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Ultimately though, Cobb catches the ball at a walking pace after Rodgers threw it into a wide open window. We can give credit to the best quarterback in the league, one of the best young slot receivers in the league and one of the best offensive designs in the league, but we really don’t need to. Jenkins was in a tough situation, but he didn’t do himself justice on this play.

4. Week 8: New England Patriots’ Brandon Lloyd.

As a rookie, mistakes are going to come. This mistake against the Patriots was very costly, but not overly indicative of an underlying permanent problem for the Rams to worry about. Jenkins just blows his coverage assignment, it’s an unwelcome play, but not one that was persistent throughout the season.

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As many teams attempt to do against the Patriots, because it’s something that can work very well when executed effectively, the Rams are trying to confuse Tom Brady with their pre-snap alignment. Jenkins is liined up over the middle of the field, but there is no tight end directly in line with him. Jenkins is pushed infield, but he’s part of the trio of defenders who are responsible for the three receivers to the top of the screen.

Jenkins is responsible for Lloyd, who is the furthest receiver away from Brady.

Screen shot 2013-07-04 at 13.22.36

Jenkins sees Deion Branch running underneath the formation and he hesitates in position for a moment too long because of that. There is no need for Jenkins to pay attention to Branch because he is surrounded by Rams defenders.

While Jenkins is staying high and tight in the middle of the field, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are running deep into space around Bradley Fletcher.

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The problem for Jenkins on this play isn’t how far away from Lloyd he is, it’s his position on the field. Both he and his deep safety are to the inside of Lloyd, leaving huge space outside for him to run into. So even though Jenkins is able to close the gap as he is recovering, Lloyd still catches a simple touchdown pass because the space he was running into was too great.

5. Week 8: New England Patriots’ Brandon Lloyd.

Lloyd’s first touchdown was all about a blown coverage by Jenkins, while his second was all about his work at the line of scrimmage. Jenkins struggles to deal with receivers who can make quick steps at the line of scrimmage and Lloyd exposed him badly here.

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Lloyd takes a hard step towards the sideline before attacking Jenkins’ inside shoulder. Lloyd’s step isn’t overly impressive, but Jenkins overreacts either way to take himself completely out of the play. By the time the ball arrives for Lloyd, Jenkins is some distance away from him where he can’t affect the play.

With that space, Lloyd can simply fall into the endzone untouched.

Big Coverage Plays

In zone coverage, Jenkins’ aggressiveness multiplied. He was never scared of attacking the football and had the short-area burst, ability to see how plays were going to develop to make plays on the football. Against the Chicago Bears, there was one play that really showed this off.

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Jenkins is lined up over Brandon Marshall at the bottom of the screen. He is almost 10 yards off the line of scrimmage and responsible for a deep third to his side of the field. At the snap, the deep safety moves to the far side of the field, but Jenkins isn’t on an island completely because linebackers  inside drop so that they are underneath Marshall when he runs his route.

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With the defenders underneath dropping into zones, Jenkins keeps his depth and has his shoulders squared to Marshall. Importantly, Jenkins is balanced with his weight perfectly over his feet. He can come forward to attack the football or quickly turn to get down the sideline.

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Marshall is running a comeback route infield. Jenkins is able to aggressively shut it down by coming forward, but importantly, he doesn’t commit to the route until he sees Marshall’s weight shift back down the field. This allows Jenkins to cover any potential double move down the sideline, while still being able to prevent the reception between the numbers.

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The ball isn’t perfectly on time, but it’s not so late that Jenkins had time to get into position while the receiver was waiting. In spite of that, Jenkins was quick enough to break on the football ahead of Marshall and push him out of position for a potential interception.

He dropped the pass, but the play on the football was overwhelmingly positive regardless.

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He didn’t always time it right, but when he did, Jenkins’ potential for creating turnovers was huge because of his burst on the football. As he gains more experience at this level, he should learn how to best time his break on the football to minimise his exposure to double moves down the field.

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Against the Cardinals later in the season, Jenkins would get two interceptions. One of those was a horrendously underthrown pass from Ryan Lindley, but the other showed off his burst and anticipation playing zone coverage.

Jenkins initially dropped with Michael Floyd running down the sideline, before bursting in front of LaRod Stephens-Howling who was running into the flat.

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Because Jenkins attacked the football while Stephens-Howling was falling away from it, Jenkins was able to pick off the pass, regain his balance and run down the sideline for a simple touchdown. That touchdown came from his anticipation and aggressive playing zone coverage however.

Jenkins consistently plays the football phenomenally well.

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Often Jenkins is the one attacking the football in the way a head coach would want his wide receiver to.

Man Coverage Ability

Although he didn’t do it often, it is worth touching on Jenkins’ few plays that showed off his ability to play outstanding man coverage.

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Golden Tate and Jenkins are locked up together at the top of the screen. There is a safety deep and a linebacker to the inside who will drop into the flat, but Jenkins plays aggressive man coverage on Tate from the snap to the end of the play.

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Tate runs down the sideline and Jenkins mirrors him from the start. Once he gets closer to the sideline, Jenkins looks to suffocate the space away from him before turning to locate the football. When he does turn, Jenkins is in the perfect position to make a play on the ball while Tate is working to recover.

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Initially it appeared that Jenkins dropped an easy interception, but the replay showed that Tate had actually tipped it away from him at the last second. It speaks to just how good Jenkins’ coverage was and how he looks to play the ball at it’s highest point that Tate was at full-stretch and still had no chance to make the reception.

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He definitely has this ability, but he needs to show greater discipline and the consistency to be trusted to do it more often against better receivers.


I don’t personally value blitzing very highly in a defensive back, but there’s no denying that Jenkins is one of the better blitzing defensive backs in the NFL already. Most defensive backs just get there and only make the play if they are unblocked, Jenkins arrives with intensity while still understanding how to take on blockers.

Jenkins rushed the passer just 13 times last year, but was very effective at times when he did.

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Curiously, even though he is often out of control in coverage, Jenkins is a very controlled, methodical blitzer. Although he did once miss a clean sack on Colin Kaepernick because he came in too hot, there were many other occasions when he understood what the blocking scheme was trying to do to him and took his time to work through it to make the play.

This was one of those occasions. Jenkins came unblocked off the edge before settling in front of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch established his base while Jenkins hesitated before engaging him. Jenkins was able to push Lynch back before driving down on his outside shoulder. This moved Lynch off of his base and gave all of the leverage advantage to the defensive back.

Once Russell Wilson stepped up into the pocket, Jenkins was able to jump passed Lynch’s inside shoulder and attack the football. Wilson was in his throwing motion and got the ball out before Jenkins could take him down, but Jenkins dramatically affected his throw with his hit, leading to an easy interception off of a pass that floated straight up into the air.

Against the San Francisco 49ers, Jenkins doesn’t get a sack, but he does put enough pressure on Colin Kaepernick to prevent him from escaping the pocket. His presence combined with his teammates forces Kaepernick into an intentional grounding penalty.

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After motioning across from the right side of the defense into the slot on the left side, Jenkins is going to blitz the quarterback off the edge.

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Again, Jenkins is unblocked by the offensive line and left to the running-back. This time it’s one of the better pass-blocking backs in the NFL, Frank Gore. Gore sets up well and hits Jenkins. Jenkins doesn’t beat the block, but he absorbs it in such a way that he can keep his eyes on the quarterback while still maintaining his momentum down the field.

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When the interior pressure pushes Kaepernick out of the pocket, Jenkins is in the perfect position to track him down because he didn’t fully commit to engaging Gore. Gore had established his base and looked to hit Jenkins, so he was on his heels when Jenkins ran past him towards the endzone.

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Jenkins doesn’t make the tackle, but he does enough in space against a very athletic quarterback to make the play.

The Verdict

Considering the circumstances that he entered the NFL in, by that I mean going from small school college football to the top of the professional ranks, Jenkins’ rookie year shouldn’t be reflective of the rest of his career. Even from his first year until his second he could and should be expected to take monumental leaps.

Throw in the fact that he will be working with a new defensive coordinator who could make important scheme alterations and the product on the field next season may actually be polar opposite to what it was last year. Jenkins has a lot of talent, so in the right situation he could excel and become that all-pro player that his potential indicates he can be.

While there is a lot to take from his rookie season about Jenkins as an individual, the most significant seems to be his long-speed. Long-speed is often overstated in importance for defensive backs. Typically it’s better to be quicker than fast as a defensive back, but that is presuming that you have enough speed to run with receivers from good positions. Jenkins doesn’t appear to have that long-speed that is needed to be a shutdown cornerback at the NFL level.

He can still be a very good cornerback, but whether he can be one of the very best in the league may come under greater doubt if he doesn’t find a way to better handle that aspect of his play.

You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf

2 Responses to “Janoris Jenkins: The Numbers, The Tape, The Verdict

  • Good article. I learned some things from it. From what I can tell I think Jenkins tries to (in some ways) make too many “huge” plays. I also don’t think he’s as comfortable with zone as much as man to man. Anyway, good write up and thanks for the information.

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