When the Saints drafted Malcolm Jenkins in 2009 I was pretty excited. As a fellow Garden Stater I was aware of Jenkins' talent and toughness from his time at Piscataway High School, and although I'm not an Ohio State fan, I'd tune in from time to time to catch Jenkins as a Buckeye. I was confident Jenkins would be a stellar addition to the defense, and all seemed good. Until the holdout...
Jenkins and his agent decided to holdout for more money at the same time Michael Crabtree and his handlers in San Francisco made every rookie looking for more money come across, shall I say, as dumb (this is a family website, and my word choices have to reflect that). The Saints were on the verge of greatness in the summer of '09 and along comes this college kid who thinks he deserves more money because of what he might be able to do someday. It stuck in my craw.
Like most fans, I'm not a big fan of untested rookies demanding more for their talents before they contribute anything. I have no problem with people earning what they deserve and what they can get, but rookie holdouts are always a little too much cart before the horse for me. Couple that with a few unfortunate tweets Mr. Jenkins sent out before realizing people were paying attention to him, and before the season started I was already looking to trade him.
For the entire '09 season, playoffs and Super Bowl included, every time Jenkins did something less than perfect I was up out of my seat, pointing at the television and taunting him for putting himself before the team during training camp. Then in 2010 he was moved to safety to replace Darren Sharper, and even though I realized there was a necessary learning curve, the taunting didn't stop.
In 2011, his second full season as a starter (and his second season playing safety), he put up some decent numbers: 77 tackles (63 solo / 14 assists), and even though he didn't have any interceptions, when the rest of the defense broke down he was a dependable stop in the backfield. He wasn't a monster, but then again, the Saints didn't have any defensive monsters last year. As the season progressed, I started to admit to myself that I was carrying on the hard feelings a bit too long.
By December I was almost over the holdout when I attended the Saints/Titans games in Nashville. I know, I can hold a grudge, but we're talking football here. I always enjoy watching the team go through their warm-up routines, and I always look to see who is last to the locker room. Besides Kasay and Morstead staying out way past everyone else, like kickers do, there were also two other Saints who stayed out almost until the teams took the field to start the game: Jeff Charleston and Malcom Jenkins.
Jenkins warmed up like a player with something to prove. I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who say he is a player with something to prove, but his work ethic was proof enough for me that he's the real deal. A few weeks later, I watched in San Francisco as he was once again last off the field (convincing me he wasn't just working out a stiff hammy or something back in Tennessee).
With a new defensive coordinator, and a scheme that will be a much better fit for Jenkins' skill set and physical abilities, I'm really expecting Jenkins to step up in 2012 and become a serious Pro Bowl contender. The defensive line will most certainly be improved under Spagnoulo's system, and this will free up Jenkins to play his position without having to accomodate the D-line lapses under Williams' scheme.
Malcolm, all is forgiven. I'm glad we had this chance to talk.