Jenkins aims to end Eagles' carousel at safety

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Jenkins aims to end Eagles' carousel at safety

One point Malcolm Jenkins emphasized Wednesday in his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex: No, he won’t be conjuring images of Brian Dawkins.

You won’t be seeing Jenkins, the newest Eagles safety, storming around the edge with the quarterback in his crosshairs or high-flying through mid-air to bring down a ball carrier like the iconic former Eagles safety did.

“Me and Brian Dawkins are a lot different in styles,” Jenkins acknowledged. “But what fans want is that playmaking safety, whether that be from big hits or interceptions or whatever. You just want that safety that can take control and be a leader and make plays. And that’s what I plan to do.”

After signing a three-year deal in free agency Tuesday, Jenkins instantly became the team’s most notable safety since Dawkins fled (begrudgingly) after the 2008 season. He’s expected to stabilize a position that’s lacked consistency -- actually, a position that’s platooned one disaster after another -- since Quintin Mikell left in 2010.

Jenkins, whose career started at corner, branded himself the archetype safety for today’s pass-heavy game. Someone with the coverage skills to man the outsides and instincts to direct traffic from behind the defense. Someone who embraces his role on special teams. Someone who’s always emerged as his team’s leader.

Someone, he added, who fits Chip Kelly’s preference for esteemed character, high football IQ and the ability to be multidimensional.

“I’m a football junkie, so I can be the quarterback of the defense,” he said. “I can still cover receivers in the slot. I can cover tight ends. I can blitz. Whenever I can do all of those things, I have the freedom to move around and not be stagnant. That’s when I’ve had my best years.

“I’m not your typical safety. I’m just kind of this hybrid that the league is moving toward now, with bigger tight ends and faster tight ends. You need guys that can be versatile. You can go down into the slot and you’re not worried about them on receivers.”

Jenkins, the 14th pick of the 2009 draft by New Orleans, felt his 2013 season with the Saints represented a return to original form. The Saints allowed him to roam around the defense again after he mainly patrolled deep in 2011 and ’12. This past season, he set a career high with 2.5 sacks, picked off two passes after having just one in the prior two years and he forced two fumbles while serving as team captain for the second straight season.

The Saints decided to let him go and shifted their funds to Jairus Byrd, an open-field playmaker who cost them $54 million over six years, but Jenkins said the Eagles prioritized him very quickly in free agency (see story).

One assurance he needed before agreeing to hop aboard Kelly’s express is that he’d be a moveable part in coordinator Billy Davis’ defense.

Turns out, this issue wasn’t negotiable.

“They communicated to me that that’s what they want me to do,” he said. “That’s right up my alley.”

Jenkins isn’t blind to the reputation he’s cultivated for coming up empty-handed on tackles. Pro Football Focus, which tracks missed tackles, counted 18 last year for Jenkins, tied for fifth-most in the league. (It should be noted that Mike Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25-million deal with the Steelers tied for first).

Jenkins admitted his tackling needs improvement but said he’s “made a bunch of plays in my career, game-changing plays.”

“If you were to ask me what’s my biggest thing I need to improve on, I would say tackling,” he said, “and I think that’s only happened over the last couple of seasons. I think that had something to do with the change of scheme and change of positions I was in, but I don’t see a problem going forward.”

So what happened in ’11 and ‘12 that reduced a second-team All-Pro safety in 2010 into an expendable afterthought with a reputation for fleeting fundamentals?

Jenkins pointed to his shift from corner to an exclusive free safety whose full talents weren’t capitalized. In 2010, his second season and first at safety, Jenkins slid inside on nickel downs with Darren Sharper coming in to play alongside Roman Harper at safety.

When Sharper retired before the 2011 season, Jenkins exclusively manned the post and then observed his drop-off in impact. Not much action 20 yards away from scrimmage, which isn’t a role that suited him best.

“That’s not where I’m most comfortable,” he said. “I can’t blame that and say that’s why I missed tackles. That’s not what I’m saying, but the years in which I was put in position to make plays, I made them. And I’m really looking forward to having that opportunity here, looking forward to coaches wanting to put me in those positions and realizing that.”

Jenkins spared folks the rhetoric about feeling slighted by the Saints and the boatload of cash they tossed at his replacement. He said he didn’t feel motivated to atone for perceptions that he hasn’t fulfilled expectations of being a 14th overall pick.

“The one thing about the draft is, I didn’t make them draft me at that point,” he said. “That’s just where I fell. I think what I brought to the Saints and what I meant to that team was worth it, and I don’t think you can get anybody who was with that organization that would say different.”

Jenkins insisted that if he’s not in conversations about the league’s best safeties, he’s “working to get there.”

He won’t inspire teammates with Dawkins-caliber theatrics or pep talks, but Jenkins said there’s a reason he was twice captain of the Saints, along with being a team captain at Ohio State and throughout his high school career.

There’s a reason he owns a Super Bowl ring, played for two national championships in college and played on three straight championship teams in high school.

“I’m kind of a natural born leader,” he said. “I’ve been a captain on every team I’ve ever played on. I try to lead by example first and I think that’s why people gravitate toward me as a leader. Because they see the work I put in. They see the extra hours and the detail I put into my work and I take it very serious. I just plan on doing what I normally do and if that turns into me standing out as leader, that will play out.”

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

PHOENIX -- Joe Douglas is a big, imposing man. 

As he's walked around lavish greenery at the Biltmore Hotel in Arizona at the annual league meetings this week, he's towered over most of the other NFL executives, including his boss, Howie Roseman.

Douglas is large in physical stature. His role within the Eagles organization seems to match.

"The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said on Tuesday night, speaking for the first time in over a year. 

Douglas was hired in May to head up the Eagles' personnel department, the result of a months-long search administered by Lurie, Roseman and senior advisor Tom Donahoe. 

Last year, when Lurie gave Roseman the power as the overseer of the entire football operations department, the new job came with one condition: He had to put together a top personnel department. 

That started with hiring Douglas. 

"One of the main things Howie and I discussed when he was going to be in the football operations role was he had to have a top-notch player personnel department," Lurie said. "Or we were going to find somebody that could find a great player personnel department. That was his responsibility."

To fulfill that request, Roseman went out and brought Douglas, who cut his teeth for years under greatly respected general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. Douglas brought with him Andy Weidl, who is now his second in command. 

While Lurie said he gets plenty of congratulations from general managers around the league about drafting Carson Wentz, he said he gets more about luring Douglas to Philly. And this offseason, the Eagles have seemingly made a concerted effort to put Douglas in the limelight. He sat on the stage dwarfing Roseman at a press conference earlier in March and has been plenty visible this week in Phoenix. 

Speaking for the first time since the Eagles were able to move up and draft Wentz at No. 2 last season, Lurie was effusive in his praise of Roseman. He marveled that Roseman was not only able to move up to draft Wentz, but also that he put together a contract for Sam Bradford that allowed him to be traded and then pulled off a move to get a first-round pick for him. 

But that part of the job has never been a knock on Roseman. 

For years, Roseman has shown himself to be an aggressive general manager and incredibly adept in all salary cap matters. But the big question about Roseman has been about his talent evaluation. Together, with Douglas, the two could potentially combine to be a complete general manager, capable of every aspect of the job. And not just capable, but at the top of the class. 

That’s the plan anyway. 

"The draft is going to be really built by Joe and the final decision will be made by Howie," he said. "But these guys are unbelievably collaborative. I haven’t seen anything like this. We have such trust in Joe that basically when that board's there, unless there's something extraordinary happens, it's going to be set by Joe and then we'll just make the final decision in case of anything. But that’s a great system, I think, and Doug will be very involved. The coaches will be very involved as usual, but there's obvious clarity on the decision-making."

This offseason, the Eagles have been publicly honest about the state of the franchise and Lurie didn't deviate from that on Tuesday night. While Lurie is now 65 and has seen his team in the Super Bowl just once, he understands the need to be patient. 

The Eagles hope they found their franchise quarterback last season. Now it's all about drafting the talent to put around him to make the team successful. That's why the condition that Roseman beef up the personnel department upon his promotion was such an important part of his new job. 

"You have to draft well, you have to have multiple drafts in a row, hopefully, where you surround that quarterback on all sides of the ball and that's the formula. It's not that complicated. It's hard to accomplish, but it's not that complicated," Lurie said. 

"As an owner, I have to be really patient and at the same time, very competitive. We'll make moves that will make us better this year, however, we won't make a move where it's going to cost us flexibility or ability to use resources in future years. Because we're in the mode where we're not one player away. We have lots of holes."

It's up to Douglas and Roseman to fill them.

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

PHOENIX -- Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green. 

The Eagles owner confirmed on Tuesday evening in Arizona at the annual league meetings that a proposal the Eagles initially submitted last week to allow teams to wear alternate helmets was all about bringing back the fan-favorite jerseys. 

For years, fan feedback to reporters about bringing Kelly green jerseys back has been overwhelming.

"It's overwhelming for me too. I would love to see it," Lurie said. "I love the midnight green, I think it's great. But I also want the Kelly green. I'd love for us to have both and some games have one and some games have the other. I think that would be more fun."

The reason the Eagles aren't yet using their Kelly green jerseys is language in the NFL's on-field policy that prohibits teams from wearing alternate helmets. For now, teams are only permitted to wear their primary helmets. And a midnight green helmet atop a Kelly green jersey would be an obvious clash. 

The resolution the Eagles proposed, but then withdrew before the competition committee met, would strike that language from the rule and  allow teams to wear alternate helmets "in a color to match their third uniform."  

Lurie said before the owners' meetings, the Eagles met with the competition committee, which told them the rule wouldn't pass. That's when they decided to withdraw the proposal this year. 

But Lurie isn't giving up. 

"They are aware that many teams would like to see this," he said. "My hope is that we'll be able to get it done hopefully by next March."

When asked why the league doesn't currently allow alternate helmets to be worn, Lurie declined to get into the specifics, saying it's a "complicated scenario." But he also seemed optimistic that eventually, the Eagles will be back in Kelly green. While Lurie preached patience in football matters, he admitted he's a little more impatient on this topic. 

Lurie's plan is to at first try the Kelly green jerseys as an alternate for two or three games, but didn't rule out the possibility of making a full-time switch back to the fan-favorite color. 

The last time the Eagles wore Kelly green was in 2010, when they faced the Packers in the 50th anniversary of the 1960 NFL championship. 

There would be a way to get around the current rules to wear Kelly green, but Lurie is set on doing it the right way. 

"Decals are an option," Lurie said, shaking his head, "but I want a Kelly green helmet. It looks better."