Originally written on The Saints Nation  |  Last updated 11/14/14

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Malcolm Jenkins #27 and Anthony Hargrove #69 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after a onside kick to start the second half against the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The day Malcolm Jenkins was drafted by the New Orleans Saints out of the 1st round he came with very high expectations. He was rated the best defensive back of his class and the Saints were ecstatic that he dropped to them. At the time Jenkins was a cornerback and the Saints dispelled any rumors he possibly projected as a free safety. Of course, the Saints felt pretty good about Darren Sharper as their starter back then. 2009 ended up being a decent season for Jenkins as a reserve corner that saw him play well as a nickelback and notch one interception. In 2010, the Saints made the move to free safety official, as Jenkins replaced Darren Sharper. Sharper would sit out the first half of 2010 with a bum knee, and return for the second half as a shell of his former self. Upon his return, Jenkins saw more time at corner - but was platooned at safety. Last year was Jenkins' first full year at safety, one that was supposed to yield his breakout season. Instead, it was a major regression and disaster type season for Jenkins. He ended the year with no interceptions, (after 2 in 2010) and more drops than you could ever imagine.

Jenkins' struggles at the safety position thus far have been for a number of reasons. The adjustment to learning a new position, the mentality as the last line of defense to go for a tackle or big hit instead of the ball, poor hands, a scheme that often dropped him 20 yards or more behind the line of scrimmage, and a poor pass rush. The 2009 version of the Saints, the one that featured Darren Sharper notching 9 interceptions, had the luxury of a 35 sack season. Since Jenkins has been a free safety, the Saints notched 33 sacks in both 2011 and 2012. That may sound similar, but the Saints generated much more pressure in the latter to years with blitzing, leaving Jenkins out to dry. In 2009 the Saints got 13.5 sacks from Will Smith, 5.5 from Charles Grant and 5 from Anthony Hargrove. The front four did a tremedous job of getting pressure, and the Saints blitzed less as a result. By 2010 and 2011, the d-line was so poor getting to the quarterback - Gregg Williams resolved to blitz whenever possible. That left the free safety less "free" to roam, instead committed to playing in deep center field as the last line of defense in an attempt to avoid disaster. 2010's d-line pressure was poor (6 sacks for Ellis, 5.5 for Will Smith, then 4 for Vilma and 3 for Harper) but 2011 was arguably worse (Roman Harper led the team with 7.5 sacks. The best d-lineman was Will Smith as 6.5).

Steve Spagnolo's scheme, a bit like Gregg Williams', is still at the mercy of the players within it performing well. I've come up with some historical numbers of his past defenses, but it's important to realize the Saints don't have Justin Tuck, Michael Straham, Chris Long or Osi Umenyiora in their prime on the team. Still, consider these front four sack outputs by Spag run defenses:

In Steve Spagnuolo's 5 years as a defensive coordinator or head coach, the defensive line owned about 70% of the team's total sacks. In 2010 and 2011 for the Saints, the d-line owned 62% and 50% of the team's sacks respectively. By comparison, a Spags lead defense has only dropped below 65% in 5 seasons once.

Part of that is having more explosive edge rushers, for sure, but part of that is a commitment to put pressure with the front four. That allows linebackers or safeties to help in coverage, which will help Jenkins have more liberty back there as oppose to a specific assignment when you're always in zero blitz. Still, while the new scheme will theoretically give him more chances, it won't improve Jenkins' playmaking ability, it won't improve his hands, and it won't improve his ability to close on the ball. Improving those things are all on him.

This is a big year for Malcolm Jenkins. There's been talk of star potential, but he needs to turn the corner this season if that's ever going to happen.

[follow]
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Rex Ryan praises Patriots, calls Deflategate 'unfortunate'

Brady hopes Peyton Manning comes back next season

Report: Thibodeau’s relationship with Bulls 'beyond repair'

Joe Montana pins blame for Deflategate on Tom Brady

NFLPA boss: No Deflategate interviews until after SB

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Blandino: Deflategate no sting; PSI in footballs not logged in

Aaron Hernandez’s DNA found on bullet casing, joint near body

Thomas upset he was tested for PEDs over health statement

Marshawn’s press conference to end all press conferences

NFL to assist Seahawks in ID'ing Pats' ineligible receiver sets

Josh Gordon in essay: I'm not an addict

WATCH: Timberwolves throw shade at Kevin Love in promo

Tom Izzo: 'The Twitter' may have affected team's confidence

Measles outbreak hits Arizona days before Super Bowl

Proposed pace-of-play rule changes, by the numbers

Super Bowl XLIX should smash TV viewership record yet again

NFL, officials, Carroll disagree on ineligible player rules

Seattle business rolling 12,000 joints for Super Bowl

How Yardbarker got Marshawn Lynch to open up back in 2008

Super Bowl records that won't fall anytime soon

Richard Sherman, girlfriend expecting baby any day

15 amazing Super Bowl XLIX stats

Pats fans buy Super Bowl tickets, told they're unavailable

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Rex Ryan downplays Deflategate

Brady hopes Manning comes back

The worst Super Bowl commercials of all-time

SB anthem, halftime performers through the years

Super Bowl should smash TV records

Super Bowl records unlikely to fall

15 amazing Super Bowl XLIX stats

Teammate: Manziel not a joke

Ten most underrated SB performances

Knicks ‘in play’ for Kevin Durant?

Ex-QB: Everyone deflates footballs

Where did 'Hawks, Pats find players?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.