There is less stress in cornerback Mike Jenkins' football life in 2010.
At the beginning of last season, Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick were battling for the starting job -- alternating as the starter in the first two weeks of the regular season.
"I was going home. I was going back to Tampa," Jenkins, a Tampa native, said of his Week 1 start in 2009. "I had a lot of energy going into that game, a lot of stress just battling that whole situation."
Jenkins won the job and, by season's end, had established himself as one of the up-and-coming corners in the game by earning a Pro Bowl berth in just his second season. He finished with a team-leading five interceptions, the most on the team since 2007 when Anthony Henry grabbed six.
As the Cowboys enter the 2010 regular season, Jenkins is securely in place opposite Terence Newman. Scandrick, a good young player, is the slot corner who comes in on third-receiver sets.
Jenkins had proved to the Cowboys that they can depend on him, whether it be in press or zone coverages. Secondary coach Dave Campo trusts Jenkins so much that he allows the corner to play press coverage anytime he wants, unless the Cowboys want all their corners to play a certain way.
Jenkins, who played press coverage at the University of South Florida, had to adjust to the pro game, where zone coverage is used quite a bit. He struggled at judging the ball and was thinking too much.
Once he began to grasp zone coverage last season, Jenkins began to play with more instinct.
"Right now, I'm relieved of the stress because we're not battling," Jenkins said of the competition with Scandrick. "I'm just keeping the same preparation. You try not to mess up and try to stay on top of the game and try to stay good with the coaches. It's a different type of stress. It's hard to play with when you have a lot on your shoulders."
Now to the weekly mailbag.
Q: Who do you think will be the MVP of the Cowboys this season? -- Curtis Palmer (Dallas)
A: On offense, I would say Felix Jones. The young running back is going to get more carries this season. The more he touches the ball, the more potent the offense will be. He won't carry the ball 20 times a game, but if he touches it 15 times a game -- including catching passes out of the backfield -- he can have an impact.
On defense, it's easy to go with Jay Ratliff or DeMarcus Ware, but I would say Anthony Spencer will be the MVP. He had six sacks over the last six weeks of the 2009 season. More importantly, he had 17 quarterback pressures during the same span. He's another force opposite Ware.
Q: Do you think the Cowboys will go after Myron Rolle off the Titans practice squad? -- Mark Miles (Flower Mound)
A: Rolle is a fascinating story away from the field. In high school, he won the National Alliance of African American Athletes award (also known as the Watkins Award) as the top high school student based on academic, athletic and community achievement. He is a Rhodes Scholar recipient. It's crazy that NFL teams questioned his commitment to the sport. For now, Rolle is with the Tennessee Titans. And with the Cowboys having five safeties on the active roster, it's doubtful they would grab him.
Q: Mr. Watkins, I was wondering, do you see the Cowboys going after Tony Curtis? The Cowboys only have two tight ends, and he just got released by the 49ers. I'm pretty sure he knows the system better than Martin Rucker. Also, what are your thoughts on the Cowboys adding a veteran offensive lineman or defensive back? -- Bobby (Shindand, Afghanistan)
A: Bobby, I doubt they will bring Tony Curtis back. The team likes Rucker's potential and, once he gets up to speed with the offense, I wouldn't be surprised if he's moved to the active roster. The Cowboys don't want a veteran corner or offensive lineman. They had a veteran corner in Cletis Gordon, and he was cut Saturday. It's better to go with younger linemen, because they have a better future.
Q: What's the status of Roy E. Williams as wide receiver for the Cowboys. Where is he on the depth chart? -- Bill (Vermont)
A: Williams is the starting wide receiver opposite Miles Austin. Williams had a pretty productive training camp and looked pretty good in the preseason -- better than Austin, I thought. Williams knows the offense, but he as struggled with finding regular-season consistency and developing a chemistry with QB Tony Romo. If Williams can be consistent in running routes and catching the ball, he might have a good 2010. Williams and Romo have both said the chemistry between them is getting better.
Q: Pass protection has been suspect, and we haven't seen much of a running game. Do you see the Cowboys running game being productive against the Redskins defense? -- Chazz B (Lancaster, Pa.)
A: You should be concerned about the pass protection, especially with two starters out for Sunday's game. But Montrae Holland and Alex Barron have been starters in this league, so it's not like you have inexperienced players out there. Jason Witten will help Barron and Doug Free, if necessary, and the Cowboys will have two fullbacks active for the game. The running game bothers me. From what we've seen in the preseason, there was little room to maneuver for the running backs. The Cowboys hope this changes Sunday night.