In many ways for Malcolm Jenkins, the 2020 NFL season was a successful return to New Orleans.
Jenkins, a Saint from 2009-13, intensified his critical work and presence in the community, as he continued to award scholarships through the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation and to speak out against social, economic and racial injustices. And he helped the Saints win the NFC South Division title for the fourth consecutive year with a season that grew progressively more productive.
The safety finished his 12th season with a career-high tying three interceptions, a career-high tying 2.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed (his most since '15), seven tackles for loss (most since '15), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, six quarterback hits and 91 tackles.
Still, despite the successes, the season was anything but normal given the Covid-19 protocols and precautions.
"Last year was a bit awkward for me because everything was shut down, we were kind of in isolation as players trying to get through the season," Jenkins said. "I didn't really get a chance to get out in the city.
"Now things are starting to open back up, I'm looking forward to getting around the people, the sights and what I missed since I've been gone."
Undoubtedly, he's looking forward to getting back on the field, too, first because New Orleans ended its season unfulfilled with a loss to Tampa Bay in the divisional playoff round, and second because Jenkins and his secondary mates will have a new coach.
Aaron Glenn departed after last season to become defensive coordinator for Detroit, and Kris Richard is the new secondary coach. Richard won a Super Bowl in that position with Seattle.
"A lot of defense is about intensity and coverage," Jenkins said. "He is someone that is going to push this group bringing that intensity, a group that has a ton of potential. It needs somebody to always be pushing the best out of us. I think he's going to be a good addition."
Jenkins was asked if Richard's intensity matched that of Glenn, who often appeared to be as involved in practice as were the defensive backs.
"A.G. is former player intense," Jenkins said. "A.G., you think is going to come out of the locker room with a helmet on. But Kris has come out here with cleats on like a player (laughter). All you have to point in the direction of where you want us to run (laughter), but he's out here, he feels like he's in it.
"That's what you want as players. You want to feel your coach is invested in it as much as you all the way to drill work, to individual, to what you're doing in a game."
That should help ease the transition as the secondary seeks to be more of a play-making unit.
"I don't know if it's any benefit to shake things up, but if we were going to replace A.G. and get another coach, I think Kris is somebody who was a great fit and great addition," Jenkins said. "That's something, even myself, one of my biggest worries when we lost A.G. – the biggest worry was who are we going to fill that void with?
"When I heard Kris' name, I think I was excited. I've been with him (at the Pro Bowl), he's well-respected. I know what he brings to this type of room and I think his personality will mesh well with the guys that we have in there."