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John DeShazier: 'Versatile' Malcolm Jenkins has had strong season for Saints defense

He has career highs in sacks and forced fumbles

A recent addition to the family of New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins guarantees a new prioritization and reorganization.

Children have a way of doing that.

"This offseason I'll be kind of busy – I just had a baby daughter," Jenkins said. "That'll be my new offseason project, being a Dad."

Not that he's likely to totally abandon one of his other offseason pursuits – namely, the production and distribution of bow ties. Jenkins is too big a lover of the style to leave it alone, so big an aficionado that they're his neckwear of choice.

"During the offseason I try to put my efforts to something outside of football, and that's usually something to do with my charity (the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation), whether it's a free football clinic that we're putting on or some programs that we have with my foundation," Jenkins said. "And this past year I started my own bow tie company, which is Rock Avenue Bow Ties. That's been fun, learning the ins and outs from a business perspective."

For Jenkins, who will help lead the Saints defense sunday in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, necessity became the mother of invention.

"It got to a point where I couldn't really find bow ties that I wanted to wear," he said. "Everything was kind of the same. My wife gave me the idea, 'Hey, you should just make your own.' And that small idea kind of snowballed into a business and it's actually going pretty well. I'm glad she did push me in that direction."

Jenkins is hands-on with the process, perhaps more so than anyone would suspect. He digs into the process as if digging into game film for an upcoming opponent.


"I picked all the fabrics myself, I design them all myself," he said. "Me and my wife ship them from our home. They are made locally in New Orleans. I started out trying to make them, but I'm not that good of a seamstress. I touch pretty much every single product that comes through.

"I have at least four or five bow ties that I've made personally, that I've actually worn a few times. I can make a couple, I just don't know if anybody would pay for them."

Fortunately, he has a day job to lean on. And on it, he has had a pretty good year.

After 15 games, Jenkins had 67 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and four passes defended despite missing two games. He won't match last year's total of 95 tackles, but he hasn't needed to this season while playing for a much-improved defense.

Plus, this season he has been allowed to be much more versatile. He has career highs in sacks and forced fumbles, and has been far more difficult to locate for opposing offenses than he was last season.

"This is definitely one of my better years," Jenkins said. "Being able to move around in different positions and make plays in a variety of ways has been fun. It's definitely the most fun I've had since I've been here, with the personalities that we have in our room, Rob (Ryan) being the new defensive coordinator, it's been fun. To see it come together from where we came last year has been an awesome experience.

"I think (versatility), that's the strength of my game, being able to be in different spots and do different things throughout a game. That's where I kind of excel. When I have to stay deep for an entire game and be in one place, I don't really do well with that. I think this is the perfect scheme for a player like me and for a lot of the guys we have. A lot of the guys are versatile and can play multiple positions and that's when we make hay on defense."

The hay the Saints have made defensively included producing 43 sacks through 14 games, more than they'd ever produced in a single season under Coach Sean Payton.

Fourteen players have combined to produce that total, in a season in which the defense has seen a night-and-day turn from last year. And Jenkins has been in the middle of the production, slowed only by the injury that forced him to miss games against the New York Jets and against Dallas.

"I think, from a player's perspective, (the defense is) more player-friendly this year and that allows players to buy in to the scheme, it allows them to play to their strengths," he said. "And we have success in that. You see the sacks are way up, the big plays are down and we've done a lot better yardage-wise."

Across the board, the Saints have been better; they were 10-4 after 14 games this season, three more victories than they totaled in 16 games last year.

Now, they're looking to wrap a nice, neat bow onto the regular season and to enter the playoffs. Jenkins, undoubtedly, would like to have a hand in the production of that bow tie, too.

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