As high as expectations are for rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins, fans need to realize there will be plenty of highs and lows as a rookie. Playing defensive back in the NFL has to be one of the most challenging jobs the NFL has to offer. The wide receivers are at a total advantage because of the rules, and it appears to be getting more strict every year.
However, that doesn't mean that young cornerbacks can't succeed in the league. Look at guys like Richard Sherman and Casey Hayward—both are under the age of 25 and both are No. 1 and 2, respectively, in terms of top cover corners according to Pro Football Focus.
Many felt Jenkins would turn out to be the best defensive back in this year's draft class despite being taken in the second round. Honestly, I couldn't agree more. Yet, he still has plenty of areas to improve upon. Yesterday's game against the Packers was an obvious reminder of that and exposed a few of those weaknesses.
He allowed nine catches on 11 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers' quarterback rating was 142.8 when throwing his way. Let's break down three of Jenkins' worst plays. This game may end up being the worst game he has all season.
Play No. 1: First Quarter, 7:38 Left to Play
This play here was the first play of the Packers' second drive of the game—Green Bay is lined up in 11 personnel. Two wide receivers are split out left with Jordy Nelson all alone at right wide receiver.
The St. Louis secondary is in man coverage and the cornerbacks are playing press at the line of scrimmage. However, there appears to be no jam on the press coverage as Jenkins just tries to stay in Nelson's hip pocket.
On the snap of the ball Nelson acts like he is going to start driving his way upfield. You can tell this by the way he makes his first move to Jenkins' right side. As soon as he gets the rookie to flip his hips toward the sideline, Nelson then quickly cuts off his route. His next move is toward the hash mark where he runs a slant route.
Rodgers lays the perfect throw on him and he picks up 15 yards and the first down.
Jenkins has the ability to run with any of Green Bay's wideouts. Yet, being out of position will hinder any cornerback, especially against a good route-runner like No. 87. To compensate for a good route-runner, the rookie should have jammed Nelson at the line. He may not have gotten off the greatest jam, but at least it would have impeded the wide receiver's path.
Instead, the recovery came too late and the first play of the drive moved the ball 15 yards in the blink of an eye.
Play No. 2: First Quarter, 6:22 Left to Play
The fourth play of the drive proved to be even worse than the second. The Packers offense was in 11 personnel again—only this time they had one wide receiver split left and two to the right side of the field. Tight end Jermichael Finley was on the right side of the line and John Kuhn was in the backfield.
Jenkins was lined up at left cornerback against Nelson, who was at right wide receiver. Even though it was only the second play of the drive, it was obvious Green Bay had found a matchup they liked.
Coverage looked similar—press man coverage on the outside. When the ball was snapped, Nelson did the same thing he did on the first play. His first movement was upfield, but this time he really meant it. There was no fake back toward the inside hash.
Jenkins guessed right and flipped his hips so he could run with him down the sideline. And run with him is exactly what he did—at no point did Nelson ever garner more than one or two yards of separation.
So, one would think the rookie would have broken the ball up and it would have fallen incomplete, right?
Wrong; Jenkins never turned his head around to play the ball in the air. He tried to read the wide receiver's eyes. Maybe that's easy to do in college, but in the NFL all the good cornerbacks play the ball well.
I think he could have easily stopped the wideout from reeling in the 52-yard bomb. All he had to do was look back at the ball, just once.
Play No. 3: Third Quarter, 8:08 Left to Play
The last play of the drive proved to be the dagger. Green Bay was in 11 personnel, but this time it had a little flair to it. There was no tight end on the line of scrimmage, instead Finley was flanked out wide right. There were three wide receivers on the left side of the field and just the one on the right.
Jenkins' primary coverage was Randall Cobb. He was in the slot closest to the line of scrimmage. Jenkins was playing off at the line of scrimmage—presumably so Cobb didn't run an inside slant route on him.
As Cobb was progressing into his route you can see he faked as if he was heading toward the back of the end zone. But then he cut back inside, and by the time the rookie corner got turned around, the ball was already on its way to the wide receiver.
The five-yard touchdown strike put the Packers ahead 17-6. It was the second time Jenkins was undisciplined and fell for the fake. Hats off to the wide receivers of the Green Bay Packers. They have some of the best route-runners in the NFL.
These three plays pretty much summed up Jenkins' day. They netted 72 of the 121 yards he allowed. There's no question there are better days ahead, but to take that next step he needs to stop biting so hard on fakes and double moves.
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