New Orleans Saints rookie nose tackle John Jenkins hasn’t received as much attention as his fellow draft classmates, safety Kenny Vaccaro and receiver Kenny Stills. But the third-round pick out of Georgia actually has the highest grade of the bunch according to Pro Football Focus, which assigns a plus or minus to players on every snap.
Jenkins’ overall season grade of plus-5.2 ranks him sixth best among all rookies in the NFL this year, according to PFF. He’s had a positive grade in all four games this year, effective as both a run defender and pass-rusher, after being thrust into a more prominent role when veteran starter Brodrick Bunkley was injured in Week 1. And Jenkins had his best game Monday night in a 38-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
The Saints’ new big man (listed at 6-3, 359 pounds) made two huge plays Monday. First was a run stuff on an early third-and-1 to force the Dolphins to settle for a field goal inside the red zone. Then late in the game, Jenkins’ pass pressure helped force Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill into an interception.
It would be tough to say that Jenkins has made a bigger impact than Vaccaro so far, since Vaccaro has played almost every snap and has been thriving in a unique safety/cornerback/linebacker role. But both of them deserve recognition for the key parts they’ve been playing in New Orleans’ revamped defense.
Fun with numbers:
Quarterback Drew Brees was the easy choice for PFF’s game ball. They broke down just how efficient Brees was in his 413-yard, four-touchdown performance.
An interesting comparison pointed out by Saints researcher Lenny Vangilder: Monday night was only the second time in the Sean Payton era that the Saints defense had four takeaways and four sacks. The other also came in Week 4 at home -- against the New York Jets in 2009. That year the Saints started 13-0 and won a Super Bowl.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, 82 percent of teams that started 4-0 have made it to the playoffs since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990.
This is the fourth time the Saints have started 4-0 in franchise history (also in 1991, 1993 and 2009). They made the playoffs at 11-5 in 1991 but missed out at 8-8 in 1993.
Surprisingly, the Saints are one of six teams since 1990 to start 0-4 one year and 4-0 the next year. Apparently, “worst to first” is a popular trend.
Trash-talk removal: Not surprisingly, the Miami Dolphins’ offensive linemen were dismissive of Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette and his harsh criticism of their play on Monday night. Galette ripped the Dolphins’ line after Monday’s game (saying he was fired up after they talked trash while trailing in the second half). Galette continued his criticism in a tweet directed at Dolphins guard Richie Incognito on Tuesday, though the tweet was later deleted.
Worth repeating: When asked if he feels any sense of “satisfaction” from the Saints’ effective offensive play-calling Monday, Payton cracked, “We all try to be, as coaches, very critical of ourselves, just like we would be of our players. I don’t know that there’s ever any complete satisfaction. It’s not like a Snickers bar.”