When Jenkins suggests change, Eagles' coaches listen

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When Jenkins suggests change, Eagles' coaches listen

A few things happened soon after Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Eagles as a free agent on March 11.

He buried himself in the intricacies of Billy Davis’ defense. He pored over hours of film. He picked the brains of his new teammates. He met endlessly with his coaches. He learned all he could and then he learned some more.

And once he had a pretty good idea what was going on, he did an interesting thing.

He started making suggestions on what to change.

Before he played a single snap in an Eagles uniform, Jenkins began offering ideas and tweaks to his coaches. Little things that he believed could make Davis’ scheme even better.

“I think he's done a great job with our staff of asking a lot of interesting questions in terms of, ‘Hey, maybe we can fit it this way,’ as opposed to the way we are fitting it,” head coach Chip Kelly said.

Jenkins, a native of Piscataway, New Jersey, spent his first five years with the Saints, winning a Super Bowl ring as a rookie in 2009.

Along with five years of experience, a Super Bowl ring and a quick mastery of a new defense comes respect from the coaching staff.

And Jenkins learned very quickly that the suggestions he was making were actually being heard.

“That is rare,” Jenkins said. “That makes me feel like it’s partly my defense, and every player should feel the same way, because everybody has a voice.

“There’s open dialogue. If they don’t take your suggestion, they’ll give you a reason why, and that way it’s not just a dictatorship, but you understand the defense a little better and you feel like it’s partly yours, and when everybody feels like they have a hand in it, people buy in more, guys know the ins and outs, and it just makes us that much more dynamic.”

Jenkins is the new guy – the only projected starter on defense who wasn’t with the Eagles last year. But he’s been accepted and embraced very quickly by his coaches and his teammates.

“I think he's really fit in, maybe better than anybody on our staff thought he was going to fit in, just because we were not familiar with him,” Kelly said. “But he's a football player and he adds a lot of stability to the back end out there.

“He's really done a great job of stepping in at that other safety spot opposite Nate [Allen] and being real decisive in terms of what he's doing. He's been a great leader in the locker room and meeting rooms, has a really, really good football knowledge.”

Really, really good football knowledge that his coaches aren’t too stubborn to consider.

Jenkins said it’s big when coaches listen to their players instead of just running their scheme and shrugging off the opinions of the guys who are actually out there playing.

“It’s huge,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been around a lot of prideful coaches that don’t want to hear anything, so it’s a huge hats off to them, because that helps players really get into it. We feel like we’re all in this together, and you love playing for coaches like that.

“I’ve been around both. I’ve been around a few coaches, like [Saints defensive coordinator] Rob Ryan last year, he was one of those guys, whatever you had to say, he’d listen. If you were a veteran. He wouldn’t listen to rookies. But if you’d been around the block, he’d listen.

“But I’ve been on other teams where the coaches don’t want to hear it. This is the way they’ve done it for however many years, and they don’t want to change anything.”

And that gets frustrating.

“Especially when it’s not working,” Jenkins said. “It does. Because as a veteran, we’re the ones playing it. It’s not Madden, where you can set your play and control players. We’re the ones that have to actually execute what the book tells us.

“And sometimes you get coach-talk, where they’ll write it up on paper but it doesn’t really work too well in execution. And to have coaches that will listen to that and change your technique or tweak something in the defense to kind of help you out as players, that’s huge.”

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much.