When the Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins to a 3-year contract shortly after start of NFL free agency on Tuesday, they filled a big roster hole by adding a starting-caliber safety. But Jenkins will be the first to let you know he can't be defined that simply.
""I’m not your typical safety. I’m more of that hybrid that the league is moving to. You need guys who can be versatile," Jenkins explained in a media session on Wednesday evening. Jenkins' versatility figures to be a key reason why the Eagles were so eager to target him. As a skilled player with the talent and versatility to line up in a number of places on the field, Jenkins seems like the perfect fit for what the Eagles desire.
Jenkins gives the Eagles a lot of options on defense. Jenkins himself explained all of the things he can do: "I have a cornerback background, so I can play deep, cover receivers in the slot, blitz & be the quarterback of the defense." The 26-year old safety went on to say that he feels he plays his best when used creatively.
While Jenkins' versatility is appreciated, others have been quick to point out his weaknesses. Jenkins wasn't shy to admit he isn't without his flaws. "If you ask me what I have to improve on, I would say tackling." Fortunately for Jenkins, this is a skill that could be improved in Philly. Look no further than the performance of Nate Allen in 2013 as proof. Prior to last season, Allen was among the worst tacklers in the league. In just one year in a new scheme and with the guidance of new coaching, Allen turned into a solid tackler. Perhaps this view is slated with too much optimism, but for now it's something to consider.
Beyond all of the on the field contributions, Jenkins was known in New Orleans for being a strong locker room presence. More specifically, he was one of the team captains. Jenkins explains that a leadership role is nothing new to him."I’m a natural born leader. I've been a captain on every team I’ve been on," he said. Eagles fans are often quick to name all of the failed safety options the Eagles have tried since Brian Dawkins left. A common theme among those players that they all weren't very good. And make no mistake: Jenkins' leadership role won't mean much if he doesn't produce on the field. But if Jenkins can practice what he preaches, it will be an added bonus to a secondary that has lacked the kind of leadership that has been missed.
The Jenkins signing was met with a mixed reaction. Some were excited about adding a new safety, and others were underwhelmed. At the least, Jenkins is deserving of a chance. He displays top qualities that the Eagles valued enough to make him their first priority in free agency. In a world where instant gratification is a necessity, patience is hard to ask for. But in the case of Jenkins, it's best to wait and see how it works out.