Raiders

New Raiders LB Jenkins learned how to be resilient during rough 2016

New Raiders LB Jenkins learned how to be resilient during rough 2016

Playing well in a contract year is imperative in the NFL. It gives a current employer reason to re-sign a player with a handsome deal, or makes other teams want to write checks in unrestricted free agency.

That didn’t happen for Jelani Jenkins. His body broke down at the wrong time. Miami’s two-year starting weakside linebacker dealt with ailments that kept him out of seven games in 2016, limiting him to 29 tackles in nine games and seven starts.

That’s a far cry from the 181 tackles recorded in two previous years as a mainstay in the Dolphins defense. The timing was poor for sure. Several teams were interested in Jenkins, but he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Raiders on Monday looking to recover from a rough year on the field.

“I would say that was one of the most frustrating years in my life, especially regarding my career,” Jenkins said. “It just kind of taught me how to be resilient, not get my head down but just keep working, keep trying to get back out there on the field and helping the team as much as I could. But, that definitely taught me to just be resilient and I definitely got a chance to learn my body more and more and what it can take, what it can’t take, when it’s time to relax and when it’s time to keep going. All of that definitely helped.”

Jenkins is expected to play weakside linebacker in silver and black and replace Malcolm Smith, who signed with the 49ers this offseason. That position bears a heavy burden as a primary tackler against the run and a coverage option against receiving running backs and tight ends.

“It’s something I’ve had to do even since my time in college,” the University of Florida alum said. “It’s something that they asked me to do. I’ve been on teams with a lot of great tight ends and running backs. So I’ve had to cover them every day in practice. I think that helps.”

Jenkins is excited to contribute to a team on the rise, and hopes to capitalize on a year as a major contributor on the Raiders defense.

“It’s definitely a team that’s getting better and better every year,” Jenkins said. “They have a defense with a lot of talent on it. They play fast. They play hard. They play tough. They play with a lot of energy. You can tell by looking at film that they have a lot of fun. That’s something that I pride myself on, is energy and just enjoying the game. It seemed like a great fit.”

Chargers cut long snapper who Jon Gruden mocked on 'Hard Knocks'

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Chargers cut long snapper who Jon Gruden mocked on 'Hard Knocks'

The NFL is a tough business. Just ask Mike Windt.

The Chargers long snapper made a mistake during the Bolts' first preseason game against the Cardinals. After quarterback Cardale Jones was tackled on third down, Windt went onto the field with the kicking ball he was about to snap. The only problem is, the officials ruled Jones had fumbled on the play and the Cardinals were in the process of returning it when Windt stepped onto the field in front of them. Realizing his mistake, Windt dropped the kicking ball on the field, dodged a Cardinal or two and hopped back over to the sideline.

Jones eventually was ruled down on the play, but Windt's gaffe lived on as he was a focal point of Raiders head coach Jon Gruden's film session in Tuesday night's episode of "Hard Knocks." Gruden mocked Windt for not knowing what was going on right in front of him, and he told his team to be locked in for their preseason date with the Cardinals.

[RELATED: 'Hard Knocks' highlights Raiders' overlooked weapons]

To make matters even worse for Windt, the Chargers cut the nine-year pro Tuesday.

That's brutal.

NFL preseason takeaways: What we learned from AFC West in Week 2

NFL preseason takeaways: What we learned from AFC West in Week 2

The NFL preseason action ramped up a touch last week as teams prepare for the all-important third "dress rehearsal" preseason game.

In the AFC West, the Raiders continue to deal with Antonio Brown, his feet, his helmet, a fish head and anything else you can think of. They also looked pretty good in stifling Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.

The Broncos made Jimmy Garoppolo look like a practice squad quarterback in his return to action, while the Chargers struggled on the ground against the Saints in the absence of Melvin Gordon.

There are just two preseason games left until the games start counting, and there were a number of things to be gleaned about the division in the latest round of exhibition games.

Here's what we learned about the AFC West in Week 2 of the preseason:

Raiders

While Brown tested out his new "ugly lid" in pregame warmups, the star receiver didn't see game action. He stood on the sidelines and laughed with his teammates as the Raiders went to work shredding one of the worst teams in the NFL a season ago. 

In their first action of the 2019 season, quarterback Derek Carr and the first-team offense knifed through the Cardinals with relative ease. A heavy dose of running back Josh Jacobs gave way to a pretty 27-yard pass from Carr to Tyrell Williams. Two plays later, Carr hit Ryan Grant on a short out route and the veteran receiver jaunted into the end zone for a 13-yard score. That was all for Carr, Jacobs and the rest of the offense, but that one drive showed Carr's continued mastery of head coach Jon Gruden's system is paying off.

If the Raiders' offense enters the season healthy, Carr and Co. have the potential to rack up a lot of points.

Chiefs

I talked last week about how absurd it is the Chiefs were able to add rookie Mecole Hardman to an offense that already includes Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins, not to forget reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

We all know it was the other side of the ball that held Kansas City back last season and kept the Chiefs from knocking off the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

During the offseason, head coach Andy Reid sent defensive coordinator Bob Sutton packing and hired Steve Spagnuolo to bulk up the unit. The scheme change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 appears to already be getting more out of defensive end Breeland Speaks, who was playing at outside linebacker by Sutton last season where he was tasked more with covering running backs than getting after the quarterback, something he was quite good at while playing at Ole Miss.

Speaks has looked much more engaged while playing defensive end in the preseason. He picked up a sack in the Chiefs' first game before spraining his knee in their loss to the Steelers. It looks like he shouldn't miss much regular-season time, and his evolution shows the change to Spagnuolo's scheme might be paying off. 

Chargers

The Chargers have one of, if not the most feared pass rush units in the NFL. Full stop.

Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa form a talented duo that few teams can keep at bay and LA got even better up front. In the draft, the Chargers added Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery which just isn't fair. 

Tillery showed his stuff in the Chargers' preseason loss to the Saints, abusing Nick Easton -- who is competing for the Saints' starting center job -- before sacking Taysom Hill.

Good luck blocking the Bolts.

[RELATED: We have a visual: AB seen holding NFL approved helmet]

Broncos

There's no telling what the Broncos are going to get out of an offense heavily reliant on an aging Joe Flacco, Emmanuel Sanders coming off a ruptured Achilles and a Philip Lindsay-Royce Freeman two-headed backfield.

However, it looks like new head coach Vic Fangio already has the defense cooking.

The Broncos starters mauled the 49ers during their time on the field Monday night. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller terrorized Garoppolo, holding the Niners to 32 yards on 15 plays, with a sack, a forced fumble, an interception, a near pick-six and two balls batted down at the line.

Denver's defense is legit.