Eagles

Malcolm Jenkins expands already impressive versatility

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Malcolm Jenkins expands already impressive versatility

This season is Nigel Bradham's sixth in the NFL. 

He's never seen a player as versatile as Malcolm Jenkins. 

"Man, no!" Bradham said. "Not in my career. He's definitely the first. A guy that can play from corner to defensive end pretty much. Seriously. It's amazing, man."

Throughout his time in Philadelphia and in the league, Jenkins has played both safety spots, cornerback and nickel cornerback. On Sunday, Jenkins expanded his versatility even more, playing linebacker in the Eagles' dime package.  

It's not an entirely new position for Jenkins, but it is a little different. The biggest difference is that as a linebacker in the run game, Jenkins has to take on offensive linemen instead of tight ends and running backs. 

It can be tough to get off those blocks. 

"Nah, I get off of them fine," said the ever-confident Jenkins, wearing a smile. 

Over the last two seasons, the Eagles have talked a lot about the versatility they have in their secondary with guys who can play both safety and corner. There hasn't been much talk about safety-linebacker versatility, which defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called "old school." 

It's not uncommon for teams to use a hybrid safety-linebacker position or to want their safeties to have corner abilities. 

But having a player who can play safety, corner and linebacker? 

"It’s pretty rare to find guys that can do all three," Schwartz said. "Malcolm is one of them."

The Achilles injury to Jordan Hicks sort of opened the door to allow the Eagles to use that dime package a little bit more last week. Had Hicks been healthy, the team likely would have trotted out the nickel package with Hicks and Bradham. 

Jenkins isn't sure if that will be the plan every week; the packages will probably be decided based on matchups. But he was happy to play more in the box against the 49ers. 

"I was kind of whispering for it for a long time," he said. "You want to put your best guys on the field, even if it's sometimes a disadvantage in certain parts. I feel like we do such a good job stopping the run that when we do get to those third downs and run's really not an option, it's better for us to put another DB on the field."

Jaylen Watkins, who is a pretty versatile player himself, is impressed by Jenkins' versatility but not surprised. Like Bradham, Watkins thinks Jenkins can play just about every position on defense, including defensive end if they ever asked him. 

Watkins joked that he wasn't sure Jenkins would be big enough physically to handle playing end, but said the safety would at least know what to do even if he couldn't get it done. 

He wasn't surprised at all to see how well Jenkins acquitted himself as a linebacker. 

"With someone like Malcolm, he's going to study each play and know which guard he's getting," Watkins said. "He's never going into anything blind. That's why giving that job to him was probably a no-brainer for the coaches."

In this dime package, Jenkins has a few different responsibilities. If the opposing team runs the ball, he needs to turn into a linebacker and hit a gap. Other times, he'll be blitzing. And there are times he'll be covering running backs or tight ends. 

What makes Jenkins able to play all these positions is his rare combination of cover skills and toughness. 

"If you ask me about coverage, I think I'm a corner," he said. "If you ask me about run fits, I think I'm a linebacker. It's one of those things I always see it as a challenge."

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

Brian Dawkins always had a symbiotic relationship with Eagles fans.

He loved them, they loved him, and there isn’t a single Eagle in the last 50 years who was as universally adored as Dawkins.

Try to find an Eagles fan that didn’t like him. You can’t do it.

In 18 days, Dawkins will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and on Tuesday he talked about the Eagles fans who cheered for him about every autumn Sunday from 1996 through 2008.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I believe if a Philadelphia Eagles fan had a chance to play, if all of a sudden they woke up and they woke up in the team hotel and they knew the game plan and they had knowledge of the system, athletic ability to run and to jump and they played the position that I played, the safety position, I believe the majority of them, if not all of them, would play the game the way that I played it,” Dawkins said.

“They would dance, they would be having a good time … and they would go out and enjoy the opportunity to be on the football field and show it and not be afraid to show their emotions, to play with passion and give everything that they have because that would be the only chance that they would ever get to play the game of football, and that’s how I played.

“I played with a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to have a good time, I danced, I celebrated after plays, I celebrated with my teammates, and they saw that.”

Everybody loves Dawkins. Not just because of his boundless ability, production in big games and peerless leadership, but because he connected on such a deep level with Eagles fans.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you could tell he felt every loss just as profoundly as even the most rabid Eagles fan.

“It was genuine,” he said. “I was a genuine player when it came to, I’m going to give everything that I have, I’m not going to make excuses for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the burden upon myself. Even if it’s not my fault, it’s going to be my fault. I’m going to take it away from my teammates and put it on myself.

“I’m never going to make excuses. I’m going to try my best and never make those mistakes [again] that I made in the game. And I believe that they saw that, they recognized that, and the feeling is mutual.

“I love Eagles fans. Yeah, they’re crazy. They’re twisted in some ways. But I love them, because I am. There are a lot of parts of me that are twisted in a lot of different ways. That’s why I did some of the crazy stuff on the field that I did. So like, we fit. Like hand in glove, we fit.”

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

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