Kelly: Jenkins' versatility stood out over rest

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Kelly: Jenkins' versatility stood out over rest

OK, so Malcolm Jenkins isn’t a playmaker like Jairus Byrd or imposing in the box like T.J. Ward. He doesn’t have a fancy nickname like “Donte Hitner” and probably isn’t as accomplished as Antoine Bethea.

Jenkins clearly wasn’t the sexy name at safety in free agency, but there’s a reason Eagles coach Chip Kelly prioritized the former Saints safety on his offseason wish list.

Jenkins might not be outstanding in any one aspect of his game, but his steadiness, durability and versatility is what caught the coach’s attention.

“When you look at some guys (on the market), they’re just free safeties and some guys they’re just strong safeties,” Kelly said Friday night to reporters in Atlantic City at the Maxwell Club Awards, where he was honored as pro football coach of the year. “We need some versatility.”

Byrd, who has an NFL-most 22 interceptions by a safety since his rookie year in 2009, isn’t a hard hitter and already has battled foot injuries. Ward and Whitner can bring the pain, but neither is considered an above-average cover guy.

Jenkins, who entered the league as a corner before moving to safety, has played all over the secondary and isn’t unfamiliar to playing in the box, patrolling deep or manning the slot.

For the scheme Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis run, which is designed to create guesswork for the quarterback by moving players around, Jenkins fits the bill.

Even if he’s just OK compared to his free-agent counterparts.

“I think when you know when you’re playing a team and that guy's always going to be the deep safety and that guy's going to be the down safety, when you play against guys like Peyton Manning, you better not always have the same guys doing the same thing,” Kelly said. “So the more versatile your guys are, I think he can cover, he can play man because he's got the corner skills, he can also play free safety because he's got range. But he can also play down in the box.

“So the one thing about Malcolm we thought all along for us that he was the right guy we were looking for because of his versatility, and there were some other guys out there that are tremendous football players. But for what Billy was looking for and we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm just seemed to be the guy that, as we kept going through and analyzing everybody and figuring out who was the right fit for us.”

Kelly caught a bird’s-eye view of Jenkins’ impact on a defense in January, when the Saints held the Eagles under their season average for points in a 26-23 win over the home Eagles in Kelly’s playoff debut at the Linc.

He observed Jenkins, a two-time captain, directing traffic in New Orleans’ secondary and lining up in different spots in different formations.

It’s exactly what he wants in his safeties.

“That’s huge,” Kelly said. “I mean, the guy that sets our front is DeMeco [Ryans] and then you really need a guy on the back end to set the back end, and that’s what part of the whole deal is. That’s where Malcolm’s versatility [helps], and to have a guy back there that is a student of the game, that studies it, that puts us in the right things.

“A lot of things we do are based on formations, so Billy may set a defensive call late but now it depends on what they come out in. So to have a guy back there that’s smart, that can recognize it, that if they came out in this you know they’re in empty, our automatic check is this. You got to have a guy back there that’s the quarterback of the back end and that can really make the decisions that have to be made, to put us in the right coverage, to put us in the right situations to make plays and at times, some of the communication points, to some of the breakdowns, to some of our bigger plays that occurred against us defensively last year.

“So to add a guy like Malcolm was a huge plus for us and that’s why when we really broke everything down he was the guy that we really targeted and were excited to gather.”

Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

The Eagles crushed a Super Bowl contender on Sunday at the Linc. And Vegas took notice.

According to Bovada, the Eagles' odds to win the Super Bowl went from 33/1 to 22/1. Just nine teams have shorter odds to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots are tops at 15/4, followed by the Packers (8/1) and the team the Eagles beat, the Steelers (9/1).

With the win, the Eagles also became the favorite to win the NFC East, going from 11/4 to 2/1. They're followed by the Cowboys and Giants (both at 11/5) and last year's division champs, Washington, is at 6/1.

The Eagles are also 12/1 to win the NFC.

Of course, the biggest story for the Eagles this season has been the emergence of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. He had his first 300-yard passing game Sunday and was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week. His odds to win MVP went from 50/1 to 33/1. Those are the same odds as Drew Brees and Eli Manning.

Meanwhile, former Eagles quarterback and current Minnesota Viking Sam Bradford went from 50/1 to 25/1 to win MVP.

While Wentz's MVP odds shortened, his odds to win Rookie of the Year actually got longer, going from 8/5 to 7/4. That could have something to do with the odds of Ezekiel Elliot (7/4), Dak Prescott (5/1) and Sterling Shepard (7/1) all improving.

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans placed star defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve Wednesday and his return this season is in doubt.

Coach Bill O'Brien said Watt had re-injured his back and putting him on IR was the best thing for his long-term health. The team was still exploring the injury and it's unclear if it will require surgery. Watt is not expected back before December, if at all.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

Watt tweeted a statement that did not provide details on his injury. It began with: "Adversity sucks. Your attitude towards it doesn't have to. I will be back."

"This won't be fun, but it is necessary in order for me to return to 100 percent and play at the level that I am capable of playing at," the post said. "Everybody deals with adversity in their lives, many much worse than what I'm going through. I have great people around me and I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you. I am looking forward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my brothers to play the game that I love."

It's a major blow for Houston, which selected Watt with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Watt has played 83 consecutive games for the Texans despite various injuries, including torn core muscles and a broken hand last season.

This was a tough offseason for Watt, who had surgery in January to repair five torn core muscles before going under the knife again in July to repair his back.

Cowboys: Dez Bryant has hairline fracture in knee
FRISCO, Texas — Dez Bryant has a slight hairline fracture in a bone in his right knee, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says the receiver might not miss a game.

Bryant didn't practice Wednesday, three days after getting hurt in a win over Chicago, and the same day the team got back results of an MRI.

Garrett said he has been told that some players never miss time with that kind of injury.

"We've had players with this kind of injury who missed no time in the past and other players who have missed up to a week or more than that," Garrett said. "We don't think it's something that will keep him out for an extended period of time. It will be a day-by-day, week-by-week situation."

Bryant injured the knee on his first catch on the opening series against the Bears, but came back in the first quarter. He caught his first touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter of the 31-17 win.

Bryant missed seven games last year after breaking his foot in the opener. He also dealt with knee and ankle injuries last season.

The 2014 All-Pro went down awkwardly on his right leg when he was tackled by Bears linebacker Christian Jones on the second play of the game.

"He's taking it day by day and I think he feels better than he felt after the game, but again he doesn't feel good enough to practice today," Garrett said. "That's certainly an indication of where he is."

Chiefs: Charles closer to returning
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles could make his season debut Sunday night at Pittsburgh, though coach Andy Reid acknowledged that it would depend on how he practices this week.

Charles has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 5 last season.

The Chiefs have the week off following the Steelers game, so holding the four-time Pro Bowl running back out would essentially give him two more weeks. But conversely, getting him onto the field for a taste of action would also mean extra time to recover afterward.

The Chiefs have been cautious in getting Charles onto the field. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have proven to be solid replacements over the past season.

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