Last year, Cary Williams says, the New England Patriots "punched us in the mouth." I asked Malcolm Jenkins how the Eagles planned to prevent that in Friday's game. "Swing first," he laughed. "It’s going to be important for us to come out fast and come out physical."
Where Williams is fiery and emotional in interviews, Jenkins is focused and thoughtful. But his words -- and his actions - carry a punch. On Chicago's very first play from scrimmage last week, Jenkins stuffed Matt Forte behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. On the second drive, he added a final slam to Connor Barwin's 4-yard TFL of Forte, and snapped Dante Rosario's head back with a sharp mid-spine spear after a long reception.
You might say he came out fast and physical.
Their styles are different off the field – Jenkins sells a line of sharp bow ties, and has been dabbling as a TV commentator, while Williams gives the Eagles media minders ulcers with comments about things like the Patriots history of cheating and last year’s Riley Cooper incident. But on the field they share one goal – to make teams fear the Eagles’ secondary.
Nobody will ever be the new Dawkins, but so far Jenkins is showing more brutality than expected, in a good way. He was picked in part to be the leader of the defensive backs, and he has one priority.
"We’re going to be physical, and everything else, we’ll get better after that. So when all else fails, we may not do well in the run or we may not do well in the pass, but we’re going to be physical and that’s our standard."
That will be a welcome change for a backfield ranked 29th in the league for yards allowed, though a much better 17th in points allowed. Most troubling, this secondary was known for giving up first downs on 3rd and long, playing off and tackling soft, and for now-departed safety (Patrick Chung) who may have tackled more teammates than opponents. At least it seemed that way when, for example, he freed up Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald for a touchdown by clocking Brandon Boykin in mid-air. And that was just one of his many awful errors.