New Orleans Saints DT J.Jenkins did not travel to Texas with his teammates yesterday, ahead of tonight's prime time matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints did not elaborate on a reason why Jenkins did not make the trip, only clarifying that his absence was not injury-related.
Jenkins, a 2013 third-round draft choice of the Saints, showed promise a season ago as a rookie when he played over 480 snaps on defense, sharing time at the nose in Rob Ryan's 3-4 base scheme with veteran Brodrick Bunkley. The Saints were expecting big things from Jenkins in year 2, but the Georgia alum, who had offseason pectoral surgery which limited his availability for the team's offseason program, has found himself a healthy scratch for two of the Saints' three games thus far in 2014. Adjust your NFL betting accordingly, his absence hurts the Saints.
Even if Jenkins was to be deactivated for football reasons, he still likely would have made the trip, as most players do. It remains unclear why he was not on the plane, and it could be anything from an illness to personal matters.
In regards to football, Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who held that same position with the Cowboys from 2011-2012, addressed Jenkins' offseason surgery and subsequent recovery time as a reason why he has found himself behind the rest of his teammates. Jenkins has seen Brandon Deaderick, who was signed by the team in the spring, absorb most of his work on the defensive line.John Jenkins did not travel with his teammates for tonight's game against the Cowboys.
"When you’re a big guy missing that kind of time, it’s hard to get back,” Ryan said. "It’s hard to miss the sweating in training camp and all of the hard knocking and all of that. It takes a while for a defensive lineman. Deaderick is doing a great job playing. John is working really hard, he’ll get back, but it’s a long process."
“You can’t play this game on your own terms; so if you’re hurt it’s hard to get out there and play it. If you miss all of training camp it’s a hard thing to do, especially for a defensive lineman.”
Jenkins is, indeed, a big guy, listed at 6-3 359. The 25-year-old fits the bill of a space eater, occupying blocks and plugging the middle of the base 3-4 alignment at nose tackle. With Jenkins missing, the Dallas Cowboys, who boast arguably the best offensive line in the league, and, perhaps, the most in-form back in DeMarco Murray, will have one less big body to worry about on Sunday night. Dallas is averaging 156.7 yards per game on the ground, good enough to rank third in the league behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.
Earlier this week, Jenkins spoke in a positive manner when asked about his role with the team. Though having been active just once through three games, he remained focused on the big picture and doing what it takes to get back on the field.
"Brandon is playing really well," Jenkins said. "But there’s a place for me, and right now I just need to make sure when they do call my name and they need me, that I’m ready like I was last year."
Jenkins was thrust into action early as a rookie, when Bunkley went down with an injury in week 1 against the Falcons. If he is, indeed, healthy, patience and continued hard work should keep the door open, as the Saints will surely need his services at some point over the course of a long NFL season.