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News » Saints' choice of Jenkins right on

Saints' choice of Jenkins right on

Saints' choice of Jenkins right on
I don't just like the Saints' selection of Malcolm Jenkins.

I love it.

And judging by the responses in chat rooms and on talk radio, Saints fans love it, too.

The approval rating for the Jenkins' pick might be higher than any Saints draft selection this decade other than Reggie Bush.

Jenkins was the best player on the board when the Saints found themselves on the clock at No. 14. In fact, if they had the No. 1 overall pick, the Saints might have selected Jenkins, as well.

For a secondary that's been strafed by opposing quarterbacks far too often the past two seasons, Jenkins is a much-needed shot in the back end.

He's a rare prospect with both the tangibles -- size, strength, productivity -- and intangibles -- leadership, intelligence, character -- to become a potential Pro Bowler.

This was a home run, a slam dunk, a no-brainer.

The Saints didn't need 10 minutes to make this pick. They needed 10 seconds.

Jenkins was the consensus top defensive back in the draft. A couple of months ago he was considered one of the top eight players overall. Then he ran a bunch of pedestrian times in the 40-yard dash and the doubts began.

Everywhere, that is, except New Orleans.

quot;He was the player we wanted in this draft,quot; Saints Coach Sean Payton said. quot;He was the one player we weren't going to mess around with trades if he was available, and he was.quot;

Indeed, seldom does a team get a chance to select the top player at their top position of need midway through the first round. Rarely do things work out that well on NFL draft day -- especially for the perpetually snake-bitten Saints.

On this day, the first round couldn't have played any better for the Saints if they had scripted it themselves. Only five of the first 13 picks were defensive players, and of those, four were defensive ends, the position of least need for the Saints' defense.

Once Green Bay and Denver went in different directions at Nos. 9 and 12, respectively, it was pretty much certain the Saints would land the Ohio State standout.

Indeed, for all the silly subterfuge and smoke signals practiced this time of year, the selection was as predictable as New Orleans humidity in August. Nearly every mock draft in North America had the Saints taking Jenkins at No. 14.

And the Saints did little to conceal their intentions. They were one of five teams, along with Denver, Tennessee, New England and the Jets, to bring Jenkins to town for a pre-draft visit. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and defensive backs coach Dennis Allen took Jenkins to dinner March 12, the night before his Pro Day workout in Columbus, Ohio.

Two weeks after that meeting, a positively smitten Williams professed his desire for the 6-foot, 204-pound All-American.

quot;I freakin' love him,quot; Williams said of Jenkins while scouting LSU's Pro Day workout.

At supper, Williams told Jenkins he would give him every opportunity to play cornerback and would move him to safety only if he proved he couldn't succeed outside.

Wherever Jenkins plays, he should significantly upgrade the defensive backfield with his size, athletic skills and instincts.

quot;He's one of those guys that we feel like can help us very quickly on defense,quot; Payton said.

Good thing. The Saints finished 23rd in total defense last season and have consistently ranked in the league's bottom third in pass defense for most of the past decade.

Jenkins said all the right things during his conference call with local reporters Saturday. He called Williams quot;tough and hard-nosed; my type of coach.quot; He said he'd be willing to play whatever position the Saints want him to, quot;wherever it will help the team the most.quot;

quot;They have an excellent offense,quot; Jenkins said. quot;Hopefully, we can get it (defense) turned around and have some success.quot;

The selection of Jenkins continues a dramatic offseason overhaul of the Saints' secondary.

Of the 11 defensive backs on the roster to start the 2008 season, only six remain. And veteran cornerback Jason David could join the exodus if he's not able to crack the top nickel package in training camp.

The Saints' starting secondary against Detroit in Week 16 last season was Randall Gay, Jason David, Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper.

It'll be a drastically different unit this season. I'd say at least three new starters will take the field for the Saints' regular-season opener against the Lions in the Superdome on Sept. 13.

The additions of Jenkins, cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Darren Sharper, along with the hiring of Williams, make this defense significantly better than last year's version.

quot;We're excited that we were really able to help the position in free agency and help the position in the draft,quot; Payton said. quot;You don't know if that can happen when the season ends, but I think we've had some key additions that will certainly add competition and add to the upgrade and performance of the position -- that's certainly what we're hopeful of.quot;

Hopefully, the Saints won't stop the defensive upgrades with the selection of Jenkins. They have three more draft picks today. A speedy linebacker and run-stuffing defensive tackle would help a lot.

There's still work to be done, but Saturday was a major step in the right direction.

. . . . . . .

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3404.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 27, 2009

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