The one word that comes to mind with free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins is versatility.
And that was one of Chip Kelly’s main talking points during Year 1 with the Eagles. Last offseason, Kelly raved about Connor Barwin’s ability to perform a variety of tasks on defense. On the flip side, he stressed how tight ends like Zach Ertz could line up all over the formation and create mismatches.
So with the team in dire need of safety help, Jenkins is one of the mid-tier options to keep an eye on.
At 6-0, 204, the measurables fit for the 26-year-old Ohio State product. He was originally drafted as a cornerback in the first round in 2009 and ran a 4.54 that year at the combine. Jenkins has since made the switch to safety, but his ability to cover is still what he hangs his hat on.
Here he is in a Week 4 game against the Patriots. Jenkins is lined up across from slot receiver Julian Edelman, who is going to run a deep corner route.
Jenkins does a fantastic job of sticking with him downfield, and Tom Brady has no shot of throwing the ball that way.
Jenkins played more snaps in the slot than any other Saints defensive back last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
Again, with Jenkins, the key is versatility. Earlier in that same game, he set up as the deep middle safety.
And in the playoff game against the Eagles, here’s Jenkins setting up next to the linebackers. Remember how Kelly liked to line DeSean Jackson up in the backfield and create mismatches? That’s what he tried to do here.
Jenkins wisely gives Jackson a bit of a cushion, but overall, the coverage is good and he’s in position to break on the ball should Nick Foles throw the out.
I could see Kelly liking Jenkins’ skill set for a couple of reasons. Number one, if teams spread the Eagles out, he’s capable of picking up an inside receiver or a tight end. The Eagles tried some of that with Patrick Chung last year, and it didn’t work out so well. Jenkins is clearly a superior player.
And number two, Jenkins would give the team some roster flexibility. Last year, they didn’t have much of a plan if Brandon Boykin had gone down. Jenkins is someone who would be able to step in and play nickel.
On the other hand, the Eagles are looking for a safety first and foremost, not a nickel corner. And Jenkins has done little to distinguish himself in that respect. Playing downfield, he hasn’t proven to be much of a ballhawk with six interceptions in six seasons. According to STATS, LLC, he had a total of eight passes defensed/intercepted in 2013. That ranked tied for 31st among safeties.
Jenkins played in the box 37.7 percent of the time on run snaps, per PFF (26th-most among the 63 safeties who played at least 50 percent of the snaps). But he wasn’t much of a playmaker there, coming up with a stop just 2.6 percent of the time (56th out of 63 safeties).
In the games I watched, he seemed like an adequate tackler, but the numbers suggest otherwise. PFF had him down for 16 missed tackles, fifth-most among safeties. And he ranked 62nd out of 67 safeties in overall tackling efficiency.
In other words, his standout skill is lining up against slot receivers and tight ends. Jenkins also had some good moments getting after the quarterback as a blitzer. But in other areas (playing deep, defending the run), he hasn’t stood out.
Still, given his age and measurables, Jenkins should see some interest if he hits the open market. Writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
Jenkins is widely respected by coaches and teammates as a hard worker and film rat, who has been elected as a defensive captain each of the past two years.
By all accounts, those types of intangibles matter to Kelly and this personnel staff. Triplett suggests that something in the $3M/year range could price the Saints out of the market.
He’s not the most exciting name, but if the Eagles are looking at their mid-tier options, Jenkins could get a look.