New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins
Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Talk about how you guys have progressed defensively. Oftentimes a defense in certain situations need to step up, but I think you guys like being in position to win it at the end? What is that feeling like these last couple games where your unit has stepped it up?
"I think every week our confidence is growing. Every week we're executing very well, playing a lot faster and a lot more physical and the team will need us to do that moving forward. For us, it's that each week improving from where we were last week. I don't think we started where we wanted to at the beginning of the season, but we understand that it's a long season and we want to finish out where we want to be. I think we're building there. I still think we have a long way to go, the next few weeks, especially this week will be a big test for us."
As you've gotten to spend more time with him, what is the thing that really stands out to you about C.J. Gardner-Johnson?
"He's an essential player. You can't teach him half the stuff that he does. He's very physical at the nickel position, can cover wide receivers, can play in the box and play the run, blitzes, does everything. Him being a versatile player helps us tremendously as a defense and I think the mental part of the game is starting to come along as well. You can tell the game's a lot slower for him now. He's playing a lot faster, he's not thinking that much, making a lot less mistakes than he made earlier (this year and) his rookie year. That's the type of development you want to see from a young player. Right now I think the sky's the limit. He's playing a lot of good football right now. It's a big reason why we are playing how we are on defense."
When you watched the San Francisco film, what stood out about him? It looked like he was active from the beginning and kind of impacted the game in a bunch of different ways?
"Yes, like you said he impacted the game in a bunch of different ways. We started out the game with a blitz, with a nickel (package). He got home on a tackle for a loss and we kept going to the same play and he got pressure on the quarterback every time. He's making tackles on the run. He's got a pass defensed, a sack and when you're having that kind of production and being as disruptive as he is, he put them in a lot of negative plays. That's what you want to see from a young nickel player, someone who can get in the game and be disruptive and Dennis Allen kept calling his number because he was hot."
People talk about coaches due for a promotion and Aaron Glenn ends up on those lists that come about possible promotion to coordinator. What do you see from him?
"I think his ability to understand scheme and understand different tools that can work week to week and be able to change and modify coverages. His ability to teach the coverage is something that I think is underrated in this league. We don't have a lot of teachers and he's one of them. Someone who can relate to the players and actually take what is on the chalkboard and apply it to on-field. Most people have position coaches that can teach you the scheme or only technique. He has a great understanding having been a former player and having played at a high level, he can teach you the minute details of your technique, but also the broader scheme and how everything works. I think he's definitely one of those coaches who is in consideration for promotion. I know the little bit of time I had with him, he's definitely made me better in the areas of my game I'm not most comfortable in. I'm 12 years in the league and I haven't had a coach like that. I'm appreciative to be in the same room as him."
What were those areas that you weren't comfortable with that he helped you with?
"Myself as a deep player, I don't enjoy being on the deep end of the field. I like to be in the mix. Forced coverage isn't something I consider myself great at, but we play a lot of it and this is the first time when I feel like I got the coverage, understand it and feel like I can make plays. A lot of that is just conversations he and I have had through the offseason, obviously during the season, continuing to add little pieces to my game."
Following up on last week saying that you feel more comfortable in the defense as the season has gone on, what are some of the areas that kind of illustrate and demonstrate that you are feeling more comfortable?
"For me, I'm one of those players that like to be in the mix and just the way the personnel we have, you have C.J. Gardner, who's doing what he's doing, sometimes It's better for us to play a split-safety defense and not for me to be down. That means I'm less active, but I still have to find a way to impact the game. That's the area for me where I've had to improve and adjust being in this defense. It's always been a struggle for me, but it's come on in the last few weeks and I think a big part of that is Aaron Glenn."
I know you weren't on the team last year when the Saints went 5-0 without Drew Brees, but you have a lot of teams that were sort of defined by offense, such as your earlier Saints teams. Is there some pride naturally, in being able to go out and prove that this team can win with its defense even when it doesn't have Drew Brees in the game?
"You only have to go prove it if you don't believe in yourself. For me, I don't think we have to do anything different. Every time we step on the field, we want to compete and do our best on the defense. We want to be disruptive, we want to take the ball away and give our team the best chance we can to win. That is no different with or without Drew Brees on the field. The biggest thing for us is to not go and try to overcompensate or try to go outside of ourselves to make up something. The guys we have on the field are more than capable to go out and execute. We have to stress that and just do our part and do our job."
You've been a part of both Eagles-Cowboys and Saints-Falcons. What makes the two of them different or similar?
"I think it's different. They are also every similar. It's one of those things where it's not just two teams, it's the two cities, the fan bases, everybody kind of circles these two games and they always end up being interesting, regardless of what the records are, regardless of where it is in the season, whether it's home or away, it's always one of those interesting games that has some historic battles. Obviously the Saints-Falcons, especially here in New Orleans has a different ring to it and I think players understand that. I know I do. I've been a part of these battles but that's what makes it fun and keeps this rivalry going."
In 2017 with the Eagles you guys had something special, and I feel a lot of people doubted that team. How do you feel you recreate that type of attitude with the Saints here when you have some crisis here and make it a force to be reckoned with?
"I think the circumstances are a little bit different. I think in 2017 we had won 13 games, we were the (NFC's) number one seed and suddenly no one gave us a chance to win a game. We took on that whole underdog mentality and kind of went on a run, but I think where we are right now, we are at the midpoint of the season with a lot of football left to be played. For us, the message is to block out what everybody wants to say, everybody's going to assume what they want. We understand the mission that we're on and that's regardless of who's on the field it doesn't change. It's about adjusting, stepping up and doing your job and for us, we've always been focused on the process all year. You don't let events like this change the process. That's really the message that I have for the guys. We just have to play. We don't have to do anything special. We believe we have the locker room, the coaching, the personnel to get the job done. Let's just do our job and look forward to the competition."
Was there a unique rallying cry within the Eagles at that point?
"We had one conversation that was when we played the Rams after he (Carson Wentz) got hurt and in the locker room after that, that was the message. We work this hard, we have goals in mind and that goal doesn't change because somebody got hurt. We still have to do what we do to get where we are going and we can do it. From that point, we didn't need to have a bunch of conversations about it. We just went to work."
Now that your team off the field is more than halfway through as well the season long project highlighting the importance and contributions of Black women, what has been some of your takeaways from the conversations so far?
"We covered so many topics on how Black women are treated in our healthcare systems to domestic violence to black women in media and how we can be allies. I think the biggest thing we see as men who are looked up to by other young men and young boys is we have the opportunity to change the narrative and the behaviors of the next generation. We were kind of learning for ourselves how we can be better allies, better men towards women, black women, especially in our sports realm whether it's journalism or anyone that works with us. I think it's going to be important for us to relay that message down to the next generation and include that in the same type of mentoring spaces that we occupy, we have to start talking to young men, young black men about how to respect and treat and protect black women."
Going back to talking about your increasing comfort. With interceptions in your last two games is there any correlation in your growing comfort and that and do you kind of envision or sense more opportunities in the defense to see stuff like that?
"I definitely think there will be more opportunities. I think I'm an instinctive player who gets around the ball a lot. For me, it's just coming in a different space, instead of everything being up close and personal covering man to man, there are opportunities, each week we have a different plan. Sometimes I'll be up in the box, sometimes I'll be deep. Those times where we are playing split safety, for me patience is always a thing I have to be reminded of, working my eyes, making sure I'm not being too aggressive trying to make plays and being patient and making plays when they come. Myself and AG (Aaron Glenn) work really hard on that over the last few weeks and it's something I'm getting more comfortable with and he's showing me how to be a playmaker on the back end when I'm doing things that might be out of my comfort zone."