Eagles

Jenkins aims to end Eagles' carousel at safety

ap-malcolm-jenkins-saints-slideshow.jpg

Jenkins aims to end Eagles' carousel at safety

One point Malcolm Jenkins emphasized Wednesday in his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex: No, he won’t be conjuring images of Brian Dawkins.

You won’t be seeing Jenkins, the newest Eagles safety, storming around the edge with the quarterback in his crosshairs or high-flying through mid-air to bring down a ball carrier like the iconic former Eagles safety did.

“Me and Brian Dawkins are a lot different in styles,” Jenkins acknowledged. “But what fans want is that playmaking safety, whether that be from big hits or interceptions or whatever. You just want that safety that can take control and be a leader and make plays. And that’s what I plan to do.”

After signing a three-year deal in free agency Tuesday, Jenkins instantly became the team’s most notable safety since Dawkins fled (begrudgingly) after the 2008 season. He’s expected to stabilize a position that’s lacked consistency -- actually, a position that’s platooned one disaster after another -- since Quintin Mikell left in 2010.

Jenkins, whose career started at corner, branded himself the archetype safety for today’s pass-heavy game. Someone with the coverage skills to man the outsides and instincts to direct traffic from behind the defense. Someone who embraces his role on special teams. Someone who’s always emerged as his team’s leader.

Someone, he added, who fits Chip Kelly’s preference for esteemed character, high football IQ and the ability to be multidimensional.

“I’m a football junkie, so I can be the quarterback of the defense,” he said. “I can still cover receivers in the slot. I can cover tight ends. I can blitz. Whenever I can do all of those things, I have the freedom to move around and not be stagnant. That’s when I’ve had my best years.

“I’m not your typical safety. I’m just kind of this hybrid that the league is moving toward now, with bigger tight ends and faster tight ends. You need guys that can be versatile. You can go down into the slot and you’re not worried about them on receivers.”

Jenkins, the 14th pick of the 2009 draft by New Orleans, felt his 2013 season with the Saints represented a return to original form. The Saints allowed him to roam around the defense again after he mainly patrolled deep in 2011 and ’12. This past season, he set a career high with 2.5 sacks, picked off two passes after having just one in the prior two years and he forced two fumbles while serving as team captain for the second straight season.

The Saints decided to let him go and shifted their funds to Jairus Byrd, an open-field playmaker who cost them $54 million over six years, but Jenkins said the Eagles prioritized him very quickly in free agency (see story).

One assurance he needed before agreeing to hop aboard Kelly’s express is that he’d be a moveable part in coordinator Billy Davis’ defense.

Turns out, this issue wasn’t negotiable.

“They communicated to me that that’s what they want me to do,” he said. “That’s right up my alley.”

Jenkins isn’t blind to the reputation he’s cultivated for coming up empty-handed on tackles. Pro Football Focus, which tracks missed tackles, counted 18 last year for Jenkins, tied for fifth-most in the league. (It should be noted that Mike Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25-million deal with the Steelers tied for first).

Jenkins admitted his tackling needs improvement but said he’s “made a bunch of plays in my career, game-changing plays.”

“If you were to ask me what’s my biggest thing I need to improve on, I would say tackling,” he said, “and I think that’s only happened over the last couple of seasons. I think that had something to do with the change of scheme and change of positions I was in, but I don’t see a problem going forward.”

So what happened in ’11 and ‘12 that reduced a second-team All-Pro safety in 2010 into an expendable afterthought with a reputation for fleeting fundamentals?

Jenkins pointed to his shift from corner to an exclusive free safety whose full talents weren’t capitalized. In 2010, his second season and first at safety, Jenkins slid inside on nickel downs with Darren Sharper coming in to play alongside Roman Harper at safety.

When Sharper retired before the 2011 season, Jenkins exclusively manned the post and then observed his drop-off in impact. Not much action 20 yards away from scrimmage, which isn’t a role that suited him best.

“That’s not where I’m most comfortable,” he said. “I can’t blame that and say that’s why I missed tackles. That’s not what I’m saying, but the years in which I was put in position to make plays, I made them. And I’m really looking forward to having that opportunity here, looking forward to coaches wanting to put me in those positions and realizing that.”

Jenkins spared folks the rhetoric about feeling slighted by the Saints and the boatload of cash they tossed at his replacement. He said he didn’t feel motivated to atone for perceptions that he hasn’t fulfilled expectations of being a 14th overall pick.

“The one thing about the draft is, I didn’t make them draft me at that point,” he said. “That’s just where I fell. I think what I brought to the Saints and what I meant to that team was worth it, and I don’t think you can get anybody who was with that organization that would say different.”

Jenkins insisted that if he’s not in conversations about the league’s best safeties, he’s “working to get there.”

He won’t inspire teammates with Dawkins-caliber theatrics or pep talks, but Jenkins said there’s a reason he was twice captain of the Saints, along with being a team captain at Ohio State and throughout his high school career.

There’s a reason he owns a Super Bowl ring, played for two national championships in college and played on three straight championship teams in high school.

“I’m kind of a natural born leader,” he said. “I’ve been a captain on every team I’ve ever played on. I try to lead by example first and I think that’s why people gravitate toward me as a leader. Because they see the work I put in. They see the extra hours and the detail I put into my work and I take it very serious. I just plan on doing what I normally do and if that turns into me standing out as leader, that will play out.”

Alshon Jeffery doesn't think much of facing old team

usa-alshon-jeffery-eagles-bears.jpg
USA Today Images

Alshon Jeffery doesn't think much of facing old team

Alshon Jeffery will be going up against his former team this Sunday, but he isn’t interested in looking back. The Eagles' wideout is happy with where he’s at now, and there’s only one thing on his mind.

“It’s a regular game,” Jeffery said Tuesday. “We’re just trying to win.”

Jeffery spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Bears before signing a one-year contract with the Eagles in March. Needless to say, the change of scenery has been beneficial so far. Not only is he on pace for his most productive campaign since 2014, but the sixth-year veteran is likely headed to the playoffs for the first time as a pro.

The Bears may be second-guessing their decision to let a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver depart in free agency. For Jeffery, the move was a no-brainer.

“I’m here in Philly,” Jeffery said. “I’m happy with that. It was the best decision for me. I love it.”

At this point, the tough questions for Jeffery aren’t really about the Bears at all. That’s in the past, and he’s fine with leaving it there.

The real questions are about Jeffery’s future, specifically whether he’ll remain a member of the Eagles beyond 2017 after his current deal expires.

To which Jeffery replied, “I hope so.”

“I let my agent take care of that,” Jeffery said. “He and (Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman) do a great job. Whatever they have going, let them talk about that. I just play football.

“Philly is a great city, great town, everyone has welcomed me with open arms. I’m having a great time here.”

It’s easy to understand why Jeffery is enjoying himself.

For starters, Jeffery is beginning to pile up the numbers. Over the Eagles’ last three games, he has 12 receptions for 213 yards with four touchdowns.

Jeffery is heating up, and he’s getting on the same page with quarterback Carson Wentz. As for the Eagles, they like what they’ve seen all along.

“Even early on when the ball wasn't going to him as much, totally unselfish, hard-worker,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “These things take time — the chemistry, the opportunities — and so the confidence level grows.”

Jeffery is up to 38 catches, 567 yards and six scores — plus a league-leading three two-point conversions — on the season. With six games remaining, a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season is not entirely out of range.

Then again, statistical milestones don’t seem to be what drives Jeffery.

“As long as we get the division and that ring, I don’t care what happens,” Jeffery said. “That’s all that matters. Winning a Super Bowl, that’s all that matters.”

The Eagles are 9-1 right now, with the NFC East all but locked up and a chance to do some damage in the playoffs come January. The Bears are 3-7 and had only one winning season during Jeffery’s tenure, as a rookie, and still managed to miss out on the postseason that year.

The ball is coming Jeffery’s way, and his team is winning. Most of all, the 27-year-old says he’s having fun, and his Eagles teammates are a big reason why.

Jeffery can be a man of few words, but really opened up about why joining the Eagles has been such a great experience.

“It’s the guys in the locker room,” Jeffery said. “Everyone makes you feel like you’re part of the family, and everyone is together.

“Everything else is a bonus. Being on the football field, having fun, that’s a bonus, but what’s most important is the locker room. You have to have the right guys in the locker room. Everyone has to be able to feel like they love one another. It’s a brotherhood.”

So, no, Jeffery is not going to get caught up in the hoopla over going against his old team. He admits he still has some friends in Chicago, and some trash talk “comes with the territory,” but his focus is solely on the Eagles’ season and the task at hand.

As long as Jeffery and the Eagles continue down their current road, the future — Sunday included — should take care of itself.

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

ap-eagles-dawkins-owens.jpg
AP Images

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens are again one step closer to making it to the Hall of Fame.

Both former Eagles were named as two of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class.

Their inclusion on the list Tuesday is not a surprise at all. Both were on the list of finalists last year, but did not make the 2017 class to the dismay of Eagles fans.

The 15 finalists will be announced during January and Hall of Fame voters will cast their votes for the inductees on Super Bowl Saturday.

This is Dawkins' second year of eligibility and Owens' third. Traditionally it has been difficult for safeties to make it into the Hall of Fame, which might have hurt Dawkins. Owens has likely been hurt by his abrasive personality. Both are very worthy candidates and have a shot to be inducted this year.

Joining them on the list of semifinalists are six who made it on their first years of eligibility: DB Ronde Barber, OG Steve Hutchinson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Brian Urlacher, WR Randy Moss and DL Richard Seymour.

The original list of 108 nominees was cut down to 27 semifinalists instead of 25 because of ties.

Here is the full list of semifinalists:

S Steve Atwater
CB/S Ronde Barber
OT Tony Boselli
WR Isaac Bruce
S LeRoy Butler
Coach Don Coryell
RB Roger Craig
S Brian Dawkins
G Alan Faneca
WR Torry Holt
OG Steve Hutchinson
OT Joe Jacoby
RB Edgerrin James
Coach Jimmy Johnson
CB Ty Law
LB Ray Lewis
FS John Lynch
C/G Kevin Mawae
LB Karl Mecklenburg
WR Randy Moss
DE Leslie O'Neal
WR Terrell Owens
DE Simeon Rice
DE/DT Richard Seymour
LB Brian Urlacher
CB Everson Walls
WR Hines Ward