With much of the discussion about the Jets’ offseason squarely focused on the Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson Wilkerson issues, a number of free agency signings have flown under the radar. Far from standing still and waiting for the stalemate to end, Mike Maccagnan and company have been busy adding to the roster. Let’s take a closer look at a one of the new additions to the team: DE Jarvis Jenkins. (here is our look at Khiry Robinson if you missed it)
2016 will be 27 year old Jarvis Jenkins’ sixth season in the league. He was signed as an UFA by the Jets on a 2 year, $6 million contract, although his only guaranteed money is $3 million (his first year’s salary including a pro-rated signing bonus of $750,000), making this effectively a one year contract.
Jenkins was drafted out of Clemson in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Washington Redskins. After starring at college, he was one of the most powerful and athletic linemen in his draft class. His draft profile described him as being the ideal size for an NFL lineman and disruptive against the run.
Jenkins entered his first NFL training camp shouldering high hopes that he could help make the Redskins d-line one of the most formidable in the league. He immediately showed great promise but his rookie campaign came to a grinding halt when he was sidelined for the year with a nasty ACL tear suffered during a preseason game against the Ravens. When he returned for the 2012 season, Jenkins quickly found himself a starter and lived up to his college billing as a solid run defender. Despite the Redskins’ rush defense only ranking 28th, individually Jenkins had made a promising start.
However, rather than making the leap into further success in 2013, Jenkins was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. At the time he said he was he was “shocked and confused” by the ruling:
It’s an obscure substance that I’ve never even heard of, and I still don’t know how it got into my body,” Jenkins said. “My only guess is that it came from one of the supplements I was taking around the time of the test, even though none of them listed anything banned.
Once he was reinstated, Jenkins only started five games for the rest of the 2013 season. Although he became a starter once again in 2014, when he hit free agency, the Redskins were not interested in keeping him. In his four seasons in Washington, he had managed only two sacks and never matched up to his draft hype, despite showing flashes of greater talent.
Jenkins was picked up by the Chicago Bears on a one year deal in 2015. He clearly saw the move as a fresh start to enable him to put behind him the ups and downs of his tenure in Washington. Speaking to CBS radio he said:
I had a lot of growing up to do. I had to reevaluate myself as a player and get my confidence back. Going into the organization with Chicago and (their coaching staff), they gave me my confidence back. That’s one thing you need to be a good player. Your confidence level has to be up. I just went out there and played ball like I normally did and it was successful for me.
Indeed, Jenkins had the best year of his career in the Windy City, with four sacks, although his production did noticeably slip towards the end of the season. Interestingly, his stamina was an issue which picked up by draft scouts in 2011, however this should be less of an issue considering the depth of the Jets’ d-line. With Jenkins now at the Jets under a strong defensive head coach and a hugely successful defensive line group, they’ll be hoping to build on the success he had last year. Following his five years of ups and downs, Jenkins now sees himself as a more complete player, focusing more on the technicalities and intricacies of the game rather than relying on pure physicality:
That was something I didn’t do as a young player, and if I would have thought about that and I would have applied it more when I was a young player, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now. But I’m still young. I’m 27, I’m in my prime and I’m definitely getting that right now.
Mike Maccagnan seems to have a knack for finding players who have always had potential but haven’t fully shown their worth (see James Carpenter and Buster Skrine). If this proves to be case with Jenkins who is still described as ‘starting caliber player’ , he will provide even greater depth to a D-line that ranked number two in rush defense in 2015. Especially in the light of the loss of Damon Harrison to the Giants and the uncertainty surrounding Mo Wilkerson, the signing of Jenkins seems a prudent move.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com