Jenkins: Don't like preseason? Walmart's hiring

Jenkins: Don't like preseason? Walmart's hiring
August 7, 2014, 11:00 am
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Safety Malcolm Jenkins isn't dreading the preseason: "You need these preseason games to kind of get warmed up to the guys.” (AP)

NFL veterans tend to view preseason games the way disgruntled corporate American employees view their jobs: mundane, uneventful, hollow, routine.

As opposed to wide-eyed rookies, guys with six or seven years of experience usually have two preseason objectives: Get your snaps in, then get outta Dodge.

But one Eagles veteran isn’t shrugging off the significance of Friday’s preseason opener against the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago.

“I think it’s huge,” safety Malcolm Jenkins, the lone newcomer to the starting lineup, said Wednesday. “This is really our first time or chance to work with them in a live situation. So to get the mechanics and little things down in communication, to see how we like to fly around and kind of get a feel for that real-life game is huge for us. Everything here has been fast, but it hasn’t been the real thing.”

Few veterans admit that preseason snaps have any value, other than offering a brief reminder of what NFL action feels like. Even some rookies, who tend to get more jacked up for these games, can get lost in the preseason doldrums.

“One of the rookies was like, ‘Man, I gotta play the whole game.’ It’s like, well, Walmart is hiring,” Jenkins said. “At any point in time, people would kill for what we’re doing and we’re playing a game and you gotta really enjoy every snap you get.”

Jenkins, entering his sixth season and first with the Birds, is being asked to emerge into an overnight leader for a secondary that often became unglued in critical moments. Signing the former Saint this offseason had as much to do with fixing a cracked foundation (namely, Patrick Chung) with a solid brick as it did with providing a versatile defensive back who can line up anywhere in the secondary.

Since he’s been here, teammates and coaches have raved about Jenkins’ football IQ and his natural habit of making others around him better.

But Jenkins knows dynamics on game day differ drastically from the practice field. The defense needs to work together against an actual opponent to see how it reacts when the game plan deviates from the blueprint.

“It’s kind of like golf. You take the practice swings and your form is all good,” he said, “and you put that ball in front of you and all of a sudden you lose some things. When the bullets are really flying, it’s a little different. You need these preseason games to kind of get warmed up to the guys.”

Chip Kelly said the first-team offense and defense will play about 10 to 15 snaps, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

Jenkins sees the Bears, with Jay Cutler and twin tower wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, as an excellent measuring stick as the team heads toward the midpoint of camp and with the season opener about one month away.

“This is a great opportunity,” he said, “especially for the 1's to go against a quality quarterback who’s got some big-time receivers and a really good running back, great offensive line. This is an offense that we’re looking forward to going against.”

At the same time, don’t read too much into what you see. In last year’s opener, against New England, the Eagles were steamrolled for 248 rushing yards on 31 carries. The Pats rallied off runs of 62 and 51 yards, sounding an alarm about the state of Bill Davis’ run defense and the uneasy transition from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 front.

The Eagles, who gave up the league’s most preseason rushing yards last year, actually ranked top-10 in rushing defense last year, top-five in yards per rush.

“I think all I need to do is just go play, and that’s what everybody is doing,” Jenkins said. “I’m excited to really see some of our young guys play, really get a lot of snaps, really get a lot of exposure. The biggest thing is, it’s a game but we want to be able to keep the fundamentals, keep the communication right, make sure we’re going through our reads, not get too over-excited about hitting someone else, but really just locking in and having a good first run.”

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