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New Orleans Saints News

News » CLASS IN SESSION


CLASS IN SESSION


CLASS IN SESSION
Saints rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins confessed that he was rooting against the Saints last year when he tuned in to watch them on "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 6.


Well, he wasn't so much rooting against them as he was pulling for Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield -- a fellow Ohio State alum whom Jenkins has always admired and emulated.

"Oh yeah, I didn't even think about that. That was against the Saints ," said Jenkins, who remembered the rest of the details vividly.

"(Winfield) returned a blocked kick for a touchdown (59 yards) and sacked Brees for a fumble," Jenkins said. "That game really turned a light on me for my senior year, because I've always compared myself to him, and I realized my senior year I wasn't doing those kinds of things.

"Those types of performances change games. He pretty much dominated that game himself. When you can bring that type of dynamic to the game, it's something you can't account for."

If Jenkins can bring that type of game-changing ability to New Orleans' defense and special teams this year, Saints fans will happily forgive him for his allegiance on that Monday night in which the Vikings won 30-27.

Performances like that have been few and far between for the Saints in recent years. But if Jenkins lives up to his potential, that's exactly the kind of presence he can provide.

He'll take his first official steps toward that goal today when the Saints convene their three-day rookie minicamp -- a boot camp of sorts for rookies, first-year pros and tryout players.

"I'm just excited to get the plays under my belt, to learn what it is they want me to do, to start to study and get better," said Jenkins, who will start out by learning the left and right cornerback positions.

He has the versatility to potentially move inside to free safety at some point.

Jenkins (6 feet, 204 pounds) said he prefers cornerback, but he said all the pre-draft talk about switching him to another position didn't bother him.

"When I heard all that stuff, it was kind of a compliment to me, because a lot of people were saying I could play safety and be a very good safety, while others were saying I could play corner," said Jenkins, who played some at free safety during his junior year before switching back to cornerback full-time as a senior. "To have that kind of versatility, I take it as a compliment. It means I can play corner on first and second down, then move to safety or move inside in the nickel. That brings a lot of options to a defense. They kind of flip it to be a negative, but I always thought it was a positive."

The negative tone was set when Jenkins was unable to record top-notch times in the 40-yard dash, running a 4.51 at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, then positing a time of 4.55 seconds at Ohio State's Pro Day.

But Jenkins said anything he lacks in pure speed, he makes up for by jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage -- a skill he ranks on the top of his r?sum?.

"That's one thing I definitely try to do when I play speed receivers is get my hands on them," said Jenkins, who was usually matched up against the top receivers on opposing teams last year, whether they were big and physical or small and fast. "When you put your hands on them, they're not running a 4.3 anymore."

Jenkins could sure come in handy right away. In Week 1, the Saints face the Lions and dynamic receiver Calvin Johnson, whose combination of size (6-5, 239 pounds) and speed (4.35 seconds at the 2007 combine) is tough on defenders.

Two weeks later, they'll match up against Buffalo's Terrell Owens. Later, they get New England's Randy Moss. They'll face Atlanta's Roddy White twice. The list keeps growing along with the receivers themselves.

"That's why the league needs bigger corners, because receivers are getting bigger," Jenkins said. "They're starting to bully the smaller corners even when they're in good position."

Jenkins is the biggest corner on the Saints' roster by more than 10 pounds (not counting undrafted free-agent Reggie Jones). But when asked if he might even be well-suited to cover the NFC South's new receiving tight end threats Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow, Jenkins replied:

"I've actually faced a few (receiving tight ends). But I feel like if I'm matched up against a tight end, then I'm probably not doing too well at cornerback."

Jenkins held his own against every type of receiver he faced in a college career that earned him first-team All-American honors and the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior.

He started 45 games in four years, reeling in 11 interceptions and returning two of them for touchdowns. He also tallied 196 tackles and one sack, deflected 18 passes and forced four fumbles, and he blocked three punts, two of them during his senior season.

According to Ohio State's official scouting report, Jenkins didn't allow a touchdown pass in his career, but Jenkins admitted that he was responsible for one -- a 10-yard pass from LSU's Matt Flynn to Brandon LaFell during the BCS title game in January 2008.

"I'm not going to give myself too many props for that (statistic), because I know I'm not going to come into the league at 21 years old and be perfect," Jenkins said. "I strive to be; I'm a competitor. But that's what Football is. You've got to persevere."

If he does that, Jenkins might be able to scratch together a career like Winfield, who has been a disruptive force for the Vikings and Bills over the past 10 years.

Or maybe he'll mirror the Packers' Charles Woodson, whom Jenkins is most often compared to by scouts. Woodson's physical style helped earn him a Heisman Trophy in 1997 and five trips to the Pro Bowl in the past decade.

But Jenkins has never been too fond of that comparison.

"Not really," Jenkins said. "He's from Michigan."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 8, 2009

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Ted Ginn Jr. Name: Ted Ginn Jr.
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