Atlanta Falcons: Hanging Onto Ball, Michael Jenkins Having an Impact
Michael Jenkins will never make the Pro Bowl. He'll never be mentioned along with top-flight receivers like Roddy White, and he has zero chance of making it to Canton.
Still, he is a valuable member of the Atlanta Falcons offense.
After missing the first five games of the season with a shoulder injury, Jenkins returned with a vengeance Week 6 in Philadelphia, catching five balls for 99 yards.
The only thing holding Jenkins back from being a reliable target in his seven-year career was his propensity for dropped passes.
To be fair to the Ohio State product, some of that had to with Michael Vick throwing 200-mph rockets at receivers five yards away. In 2008, Matt Ryan's rookie year, Jenkins cleaned up his act, before relapsing last season.
Remember, it was Jenkins who caught Ryan's 26-yard sideline throw with one second left against Chicago in 2008 to set up the game-winning field goal—the game that verified, for me at least, that "Matty Ice" was something special.
It was also Jenkins who came away with another very tough sideline catch against Baltimore on 3rd-and-long on Atlanta's eventual game-winning drive this year.
With White and Tony Gonzalez getting most of the targets, and deservedly so, defenses must commit three or four players to them alone on every play. This means that Jenkins is consistently left in single-coverage.
Now, White and Gonzalez know how to get open, but when they are unable to break free, Jenkins has been able to beat his man.
He'll normally catch between two and five balls a game, but they are often crucial first-down catches. He was also the recipient of last week's winning touchdown pass when he was left one-on-one with a Tampa defender.
As more of a possession receiver, Jenkins will never put up the mind-boggling stats that White has or build up the resume of Gonzalez.
He is, however, making a solid impact on the team, and his blocking skills help Michael Turner break his signature long runs.
A way the Falcons could take even more advantage of Jenkins strengths, is when they take White out at times and leave Jenkins as the only receiver. A personnel set like this says "run, run, run" to a defense, making it a perfect time for play-action.
The scouting report on Jenkins says he has good speed, but little burst or explosiveness—meaning it takes him a bit to get going.
On such a play, though, with the defenses playing run and potentially biting on a play-fake, Jenkins could sneak behind the defense, given Ryan gets the protection he needs.
We could always count on Mr. Ice to throw the ball away if nothing's there, too.
While it remains to be seen if the Falcons will take my play-calling advice, one thing is for sure.
Jenkins may not have the numbers that make people drool, but he is a valuable piece to the puzzle in a season that is shaping up to be special.
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