Monday, November 09, 2009

Cowboys' Spotlight: Mike Jenkins' Star Is Rising

by Phillip Brennan

Perhaps lost in the hysteria created by Miles Austin's meteoric rise; Romo's improved game management and the Cowboys' subsequent four game win streak, is a player on the defensive side of the ball that might quietly be making the biggest impact of them all.

Cowboys' second year cornerback Mike Jenkins is flat-out ballin' (as they say).

In fact, Jenkins' stellar play traces back to the start of the season when he was named starter for the opener against Tampa Bay.

Wade Phillips' and the coaching staff went into the season undecided on whether Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick would be the starter opposite of veteran Terence Newman.

They decided to rotate both players in the starter's role game-by-game, as both players had solid training camps without either clearly claiming the role.

After Scandrick was humbled in his lone start in Week Two, Jenkins started the following week and never relinquished the spot again.

Since then, he's been a supreme difference maker.

During the Cowboys' current four game win streak, Jenkins has registered the following:

12 tackles (10 solo)
4 passes defended

The secondary's improved overall play, and specifically, Jenkins’ ability to lock down his receiver, has enabled the DeMarcus Ware and company that extra half-second to get to the quarterback (Weeks 1-4: 6 sacks vs. Weeks 5-9: 15 sacks).

His highlight interception against the Eagles is exactly the type of make-it-happen playmaking the Cowboys haven't seen in the secondary since Deion.

On the play, Jenkins wasn't fooled by Jeremy Maclin's running-play posturing off the line. Jenkins took an angle to get on top of Maclin as they streaked up the field.

McNabb's throw left just enough air under it for Jenkins to undercut the route and make a leaping interception in front of Maclin's outstretched hands.

(Jenkins discusses interception )

That's not the type of interception your average cornerback makes.

Jenkins' is showing himself to be anything but ordinary.

The second (No. 25 overall) of the Cowboys' first round picks in 2008, Jenkins came highly touted out of the University of South Florida.

Three cornerbacks (Leotis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Aqib Talib) were taken before him in the draft.

Jenkins came into camp with a chip on his shoulder stemming from his belief that he was the best corner in the draft.

Admittedly, he didn’t prepare himself both mentally and technically as he should have coming into the league.

His rookie season was dotted with some highs (pick-six vs. the Giants in Week 9) and lows (his infamous ole' tackle attempt on Derrick Ward during the same game).

That low light in fact helped him become a lightning-rod of criticism inside Cowboy Nation, who incessantly questioned his toughness and heart.

This season, Jenkins is arguably the best tackler of the cornerback crew, and his preparation for the game is evident on the field.

If Jenkins' play of late continues to trend upward, the Cowboys may have just found their future No. 1 corner.