Malcolm Jenkins met with Philadelphia media on Monday afternoon shortly after signing a new long-term contract extension with the Eagles. Jenkins touched on a number of topics, which included his feelings on impending free agent safety Walter Thurmond. Jenkins and Thurmond both had a lot of success playing next to each other in 2015. Jenkins says he wants to see that connection continue.
"He’s definitely a guy I want to continue to play with," Jenkins said. "I think his knowledge of the game and his production speaks for itself. He’s a player that can make a lot of plays — made a lot of plays for us — and is very versatile. Just kind of similar to myself where he played corner his whole career and then his first year at safety was a very, very productive one. And I thought he played well."
Of course, Jenkins admitted that there's some uncertainty with Thurmond due the nature of his contract situation.
"Obviously with him being a free agent there’s some things to work out on that but if a deal could be done I’d love to have Walter back," he said. "I think his versatility did free me up a lot and allowed both of us to kind of do what we do best. But how that fits into this new defense and new scheme what we’re doing, I wouldn’t know. That’s really up to [Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz] and [Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman] and everybody else to figure out where they want to go with that."
There's no question Thurmond was a valuable player for the Eagles last season. He finished the year with three interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one defensive touchdown. He was an upgrade over the less-than-inspiring safety options the Eagles have trotted out in recent years.
Bringing Thurmond back might not be so easy. The Eagles might view him as a cornerback still rather than a safety. Thurmond might want to test the market if he's unsure how he'll fit in Philadelphia's new scheme. His extensive injury history is another complication in getting a deal done.
When it comes to Thurmond, one thing is clear: most Eagles fans want him back.
Here are some of the other topics Jenkins touched on during his press conference.
On the status of Sam Bradford
"I don’t know from a business standpoint where the team is at and where Sam is at. As a player you kind of sit back and you just hope for the best. I think everybody in this building wants Sam as our quarterback and that’s every player and everyone in the front office and every coach. I think everybody believes we can win with Sam. But every player has to handle their business as an individual. And as players we don’t get caught up in that, so we’re just waiting to see like everyone else."
This isn't anything new. Jenkins gave Bradford a strong endorsement last week. Here's something I found interesting, though:
Conspiracy theory: Eagles account tweeted Jenkins wants Thurmond back, but didn't tweet he wants Bradford back. pic.twitter.com/HRbTBfrouJ— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) February 22, 2016
On if he knows how he’ll fit into the new scheme
"No, I don’t. But it’s not really a concern. Since I’ve been in the league I’ve played under probably four or five [defensive] coordinators. This might be my fifth one. And they’re all different schools of thought. I think obviously there’s going to be some change. A little bit of a different role, being in a different scheme. But I still think — I know for a fact that [Schwartz] is one of those people who knows how to mold his defense to what his players do best. I think that’s all every player can ask for is a coach that’s going to put them in a situation that allows them to succeed and not ask them to do something that they’re not necessarily good at."
On what the Eagles re-signing their core players means
"I think it gives your players confidence. That if you play well, you produce, you’ll be rewarded. And so it builds that camaraderie. When you have consistency with leaders in the locker room, that, over time, you build on that. And you develop culture and you develop camaraderie more than just the X’s and O’s. I think when you look at that model across the NFL, those who use it usually do well. A lot of the playoff teams you’ve seen this year have that same model where they build off of guys that they drafted, players that they want for their future. And then they add where needed. I think that philosophy change more than anything this offseason is probably the thing that spoke the most volumes and guys in the locker room have paid attention to. It gives you incentive or more wont to be in this building and be an Eagle. You get proud of having that logo on your chest."
On whether this defense has the talent to be an upper level unit
"I think so. I think you saw it for really the majority of the year when we played together and we played well we were pretty much ranked in the top five in almost all important categories. That’s not by accident. I think we have the players in the building already to really be a dominant defense. I think there’s some pieces we may need to change or addressed or shifted around but for the most part I think we have what we need. I think when you add a coach like Jim Schwartz and his defense and his track record of having really good defenses, especially up front, and I think that’s where our strength is, up front, I think that’ll take us to the next level. Being able to cut some of those guys loose. Have them be a lot more productive. I think it’s going to be great. We’re all looking forward to the part where we can actually talk around football around here because right now due to all the rules we can’t dive into the playbook. We can’t talk about schematics. But when that window does open up, I think everybody’s excited. I think everybody will be all ears to hear how we’re going to attack this new season."
Will the defense benefit from playing less snaps?
"I think so. When you just talk about time on the field, I think so, and the amount of snaps. The last two seasons I’ve played the most snaps I’ve ever played in my life. I felt good, to be honest, but I think it’s just like anything. The more exposure you have, the harder it is to succeed. I think with our defense playing a normal amount of snaps, I think we can have a lot of success. Especially we talk about controlling the clock and just really complementing one another. I think that’s what it really all about is how does your offense complement your defense? That really starts upstairs with the coaching staff to figure out what scheme they want to do on both sides on both ends and how does that mesh together? How does that flow in a game? But as players we just want to play."
On what he’s seen from Schwartz’s defense and how that impacts him:
"I play every safety position basically. I can be a free, I can be a strong. And watching some of his previous games, like I watched when he was in Buffalo and they played Green Bay, [the] safeties were pretty much interchangeable. But I guess what I have to figure out is — and it’s really based off personnel, who all you have in the room, and how you get your best five [defensive backs] on the field — is does that include me being at the nickel [cornerback] or at the safety position? Even this past year, that was really a week by week conversation based on matchups and based on what we’re doing. That’s something that, like I said, we haven’t had the chance to talk about yet and probably won’t for another month now, but playing the nickel is something I feel very, very comfortable doing and enjoy doing. But I also know what me playing the safety position means to the entire defense. I have fun playing the nickel, but you need that guy on the back end to run your defense, get everybody lined up, to patrol those airways. So I’m trying to figure out now how to be great at both and play whatever role this team needs me to play. "