Thursday, January 30, 2014
Rookie report: Brandon Jenkins
By John Keim
Linebacker Brandon Jenkins, a fifth-round pick from Florida State, probably would have been drafted higher had he remained healthy for his final year. It's easy to say he might have been a first-round pick, as some in the Washington Redskins organization had done. But he clearly would have gone higher based off his production at Florida State. Still, he had to transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker and his role, in the games he did play, was only as a pass-rusher in certain packages. This is part four of our rookie report (based on re-watching four games of each player's first season).
Stats: He played 39 snaps on defense and was active in five games. He played 42 snaps on special teams. He recorded one assisted tackle. One.
Highlight: None. Jenkins had some positive moments, but nothing really stood out and he didn't make any plays.
What I liked: Jenkins did have some good rushes, even if they didn't result in anything. There should have been at least one holding call (talking about you Will Beatty). On that one, Beatty set for a wide rush, but Jenkins crossed his face to get inside, causing Beatty to grab him -- Beatty's back was toward the line of scrimmage as the pass was thrown. Jenkins showed a nice spin move in that game (he played 16 snaps against the Giants in the finale) and left Beatty off-balance. He showed he was comfortable in a two-point or four-point stance as a rusher. Against Green Bay, Jenkins had one nice rush from a stand-up position, but the tackle was able to anchor. With more strength Jenkins wins that one. He showed good hands at times; again, in limited rushes. But on one against Green Bay he got his hands inside the lineman -- Jenkins started upfield, then cut back inside -- but another blocker came over and a quick pass was made. However, it was a good rush. This summer, he showed a decent amount of moves (not all of them worked).
What I didn't: The inability to make a mark on special teams. As with safety Bacarri Rambo, a guy like Jenkins needs to provide a lot more help here. He can run; he's big. But he was pulled from special teams after three games and made inactive for all but two games the rest of the season. In the games I watched, he was inconsistent when blocking on kick returns; a couple times he didn't block anyone -- sometimes because he was too slow to react. He struggled to hold some blocks. It did not look like an issue of effort or desire with Jenkins, but rather technique and perhaps strength. His best rushes all came to the inside. Jenkins did not beat blockers upfield; he was a bit upright at times. Not sure if that was more about explosion, strength or technique because his burst this summer wasn't bad. It also seemed that tackles would set wide for him. Not sure he always played with strength, enabling, for example New York's Beatty to knock him off stride with a punch and prevent an effective spin move in the finale (though he did get on a spin move earlier). Sometimes his rushes were too far upfield.
Projection: He remains an intriguing player because he showed flashes of being able to rush the passer. He needs to get stronger, though, and become more of an outside threat. He's probably two years away from being a legitimate contributor, but I'd be patient with him. He at least showed some attributes worth developing. For now, he's just an occasional pass-rusher who still needs to learn how to play in coverage and defend the run. In Year 2 he needs to become a consistent special teams contributor. He has the size and speed you want on special teams. If he doesn't become a contributor here, that will speak volumes.