The New Orleans Saints may have brought in a serious upgrade to their defense by claiming ex-New York Giants CB Janoris Jenkins on waivers.
The New Orleans Saints were able to make a bold acquisition late in the season this week by claiming Janoris Jenkins on waivers from the New York Giants. Jenkins was one of Big Blue’s most-experienced defenders and a cornerstone of the defensive secondary, but a recent ankle injury and social media mess made him available. And the Saints didn’t hesitate to take a shot on him.
But what are they getting? Jenkins has a reputation as a gambler in coverage, often betting on his athleticism and aggression to win at the catch point. That strategy has worked in 2019 — he’s already tied his career-high for interceptions (4, with 14 total passes defensed), which is more than any every other Saints cornerback combined (3). But Jenkins has also drawn plenty of penalties (6 accepted), which trails only the player he’s likely competing with for a starting job in New Orleans (Eli Apple, who has been flagged eight times). Unlike Apple, Jenkins creates as many positive plays as negative moments he’s at fault for.
And that’s an upgrade for the Saints. The stats don’t tell the whole story with him, so we ran back the tape on his 2019 games to see if it holds true. And after doing that, we’re left asking: what were the Giants thinking waiving him, and how did he slip all the way down to New Orleans?
Jenkins is a smart player who consistently gets his head around on downfield routes. Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen preaches the need to communicate, saying that a loud defense is a confident defense, and Jenkins embodies that philosophy. He’s constantly checking with the depth of his safeties behind him and waving teammates into position when they’re moving slowly. He shows a good awareness of route combinations and often makes the right decision to pass his man off and pick up a receiver as they move into his zone.
And when Jenkins is in position to compete for a pass, he often gets a hand on the ball. It’s a credit to his opponents when they’re able to beat him in those contested-catch situations. When he’s able to get both hands on the football, he rarely drops it.
He isn’t a perfect player. Jenkins is 30, and doesn’t enjoy the same athleticism he possessed when he was younger. There are moments where opponents are able to get a step on him and he can’t recover — it happened twice early in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when Mike Evans put space between them on an 18-yard crossing route during the opening drive. That first Tampa Bay possession ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass when Evans flashed past Jenkins when he was in off-coverage over the slot.
And there are frustrating plays when Jenkins commits a foul for no reason. In Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers, Jenkins drew a defensive holding penalty on third down when the pass fell incomplete to another part of the field. He wasn’t beaten on the quick out route, but grabbed a fistful of his receiver’s jersey too far downfield, wiping out what would have been a good play for the Giants defense.
So it’s fair for fans to mute their expectations of this addition. Jenkins is a talented player whose best football is behind him, but he can still help this team pursue a Super Bowl win. Even if he still draws penalties at too-high a rate and slips up in coverage sometimes, Jenkins’ penchant for heads-up plays and his expansive NFL experience is worth giving him a shot. Saints coach Sean Payton described the addition as a low-risk, high-reward move, and the game tape supports that take. We’ll see soon whether things go as planned for Jenkins and the Saints.