During the offseason of 2014, the Eagles were in need of a safety. There were some quality players at that position hitting the market. The two names that were mentioned most prominently to land in Philadelphia were T.J. Ward and Jairus Byrd. Both players (who each played at Oregon) were very good and coveted by many teams around the league. They were going to get big-time dollars.
Chip Kelly, the Eagles' coach at the time (remember him?), was at Oregon from 2007 through 2012 as an offensive coordinator and head coach, so he was familiar with both players. Many thought because of that tie, it was a foregone conclusion one of the two would end up in midnight green. But to the organization's and the coach's credit, the Birds had a different plan. So on the same day Ward and Byrd signed free-agent deals with the Broncos and Saints, respectively, the Eagles inked Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year deal.
Byrd would go on to play just 33 games in his three seasons in New Orleans and is now in Carolina after being released by the Saints. Ward played three seasons in Denver and is now a Buccaneer.
Jenkins has been one of, if not the best, free-agent signings in Eagles history. He's played in all 55 games since joining the club. He's tallied eight interceptions, returned four for touchdowns, has 225 tackles and three fumble recoveries. He was a 2015 Pro Bowl selection. And prior to the 2016 season, he signed a five year, $40.5 million extension.
Could someone as accomplished as Jenkins be taken for granted or underrated in Eagles fans' eyes? Our own Reuben Frank touched on this in his 10 Observations after the Redskins game. Perhaps because of his stance on social injustice or raised fist, some fans may either overlook or just not give Jenkins the credit he's deserved for his durability and stellar play on the field. He was dominant Monday vs. the Redskins, registering 10 tackles, a sack and the type of game-altering tackles that kill opponents' drives.
Jenkins was drafted as a cornerback and converted to safety after his rookie year in New Orleans. That experience lends to great flexibility within the Birds' scheme. With the loss of Jordan Hicks for the season, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may utilize the Birds' "Big Nickel" package, which employs four safeties and two linebackers. Jenkins, in that package, could play in the box or closer to the line of scrimmage and be responsible for coverage of backs or tight ends in the flat. He can also be utilized as a blitzer, as he was in the Washington game.
Jenkins is the gift that keeps giving, both on and off the field.