METAIRIE, La. – Time and again during the New Orleans Saints’ 2011 season safety Malcolm Jenkins had his hands on the football for an interception.
And time and again, he let the opportunity slip away.
Frustrated and confused, Jenkins decided to take a different route than normal to getting better.
Practice? Jenkins isn’t worrying about practice.
“Dude, when I say I put it in God’s hands, I’m dead serious,” Jenkins said. “That’s all I’ve done is pray. I told myself at the end of last year I’m going to work on my hands all year. But the new CBA doesn’t allow us to practice with the football as defensive guys. Really I haven’t gotten a chance to do much ball work during the offseason.
“I’ll catch a few balls every day out here once the season started. Really all I can do is just go out there and play my hardest and really just pray to God I can catch it. It has been working so I’m happy.”
In fact, no Saints defensive back has shown more improvement through the first three weeks of training camp than Jenkins, who is using new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme to renew his love for the football.
This week alone Jenkins has intercepted Pro Bowl and record-setting quarterback Drew Brees twice. On Monday, he stepped in front of intended receiver Lance Moore during 7-on-7 drills to snatch an interception. Tuesday’s was more impressive as he darted in front of receiver Marques Colston to snare an interception in red zone drills.
“I think the scheme definitely puts me a lot closer to the ball this year, which I enjoy because I’m in a few different places and playing a lot tighter to the line of scrimmage,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins intercepted three passes in his first two seasons in the NFL, including a 96-yarder he returned for a touchdown in 2010. And in three years at Ohio State, Jenkins intercepted 11 passes, returning two for touchdowns.
In other words, he hadn’t shown a history of missing interceptions in his life.
“I’ve never really had a problem tracking balls or playing the ball at all,” Jenkins said. “Last year was very weird for me because I did struggle with it. Playing the ball down the field was one of my weak points. It’s definitely something I want to improve on. I still work on it every day. Hopefully that’ll continue to get better.”