Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins sits across from his former childhood football coach, catching up on mutual friends and what each has going on in their lives. Hanging above him and in his line of sight, a television in this local St. Petersburg sports burger joint rolls ESPN’s latest free agency news.
A notable name amongst the Jags' own free agency moves—signed after his four-year rookie deal concluded with the Los Angeles Chargers—Jenkins glances at the screen, giving a cursory glance to what other teams are doing.
The comment is thrown onto the table that the Jaguars have just re-signed their own safety Josh Jones, to stay in the backfield with the new face, Jenkins.
“They shaking and moving right now bringing in a lot of guys,” says Gary Roland, Jenkins former coach.
“Yea we look good,” replies Jenkins.
And as the conversation is oft to do when discussing the new look Jacksonville Jaguars, it quickly turns to Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson Tigers quarterback presumed to be who the Jaguars will select with the No. 1 overall pick on April 29.
He’s perceived as such a sure thing, states Roland, that "even if he flops, I don’t think it’ll look bad on Jacksonville.”
Jenkins pulls a face; he understands Roland’s point…but he doesn’t think it matters.
“But I don’t think he’ll flop,” he says, with such conviction, anyone listening can’t help but believe him. “I think he like Herbert.”
Rayshawn Jenkins has seen a rookie quarterback become “the man” before. For that matter, he saw it last year. He saw it with Justin Herbert. How soon did Jenkins know Herbert would be special?
“Oh from the first play," Jenkins told Jaguar Report.
It was the Chargers second game of the 2020 season when Jenkins witnessed first hand the birth of the NFL’s next big thing. Justin Herbert, the sixth overall pick out of Oregon in the 2020 NFL Draft, was sitting on the bench, unbothered and unperturbed. It was just prior to kickoff in the Chargers Week 2 game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. And really, what reason did Herbert have to be worried? He wasn’t starting that game. The veteran Tyrod Taylor would be handling those duties.
Expect, something was off about Taylor, Jenkins remembers.
“Tyrod Taylor over there, he was breathing hard. I’m looking at Tyrod like ‘damn, he having a panic attack?’”
Taylor, they would later learn, had been punctured up in the lung when the team doctor administered a shot of pain medication for a muscle pull. At the time though, all they really knew along the Chargers’ sideline was that Herbert would need to start instead. As coaches delivered the news, Jenkins recalls a quarterback completely unflustered by what would normally be considered shocking news.
“So they walk right over to Herbert and Herbert literally was like [mimics pulling his headphones off], he said—and this is right before the game, right before kick off, it was crazy—he was like ‘Herbert you actually startin’ today.’ Herbert was like [‘ok’]. And I was like ‘what?!?!’ I would’ve been like ‘let’s go, let’s go!’
“From the first play, boom!”
Boom is a good way to put what happened on Herbert’s first drive in the NFL. He sent the Chargers downfield on the Chiefs with relative ease, going 2-4 for 51 yards and capping the drive with a 4-yard run that Herbert took in himself for the score.
“Coming back to the sideline, he didn’t even celebrate. He was just like ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s do it, let’s do it,’ [unfazed]. I was like yeah, this dude a professional.”
Herbert finished his rookie season named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and with a 6-9 record, 4,336 yards, a 67% completion rate and 36 total touchdowns (31 passing, five rushing).
Can Trevor be the next to take the league by storm, helping to turn the tide of his franchise in the process?
"They remind me of each other,” explains Jenkins. “I don’t know Trevor, but just watching him, just his pocket presence, being able to deliver balls still getting hit and not really too much shying away from contact.”
“I think [Trevor] that dude,” chimes in Roland.
“Special,” agrees Jenkins.
Adds Roland, “and he tougher than people think.”
“Oh yeah, he tough,” says Jenkins.
But a quarterback—while arguably the most important position—does not a team make. That has to start at the top. For all the good that can be attributed to former General Manager Dave Caldwell and former Head Coach Doug Marrone, it’s no secret to say the Jaguars franchise has lacked leadership and a clear focus in recent years.
Which is why when, in a conversation about what made the New England Patriots franchise run so much more smoothly than others, Jenkins says “it’s like now, it’s so much more organized than I had before,” this reporter has to interject and ask for clarification—“you’re saying the Jaguars are a more organized and better ran franchise than the Chargers?”
Then that has to be Urban Meyer.
“Oh yeah, for sure.”
Then he speaks of a club with a vision, from the top down. One where players are expected to know the names of everyone they pass in the building, in which the offseason plan is clearly stated, marked and timed out; a franchise that leaves no stone unturned in what it wants to teach the players, that is operating under one mantra and mimic’s everything Jenkins has ever heard from fellow players about how Bill Belichick runs the Patriots.
It's no surprise, given how much Urban Meyer has studied and expressed admiration for Belichick. And this before the entire team and new coaching staff has even been able to all get into the building at the same.
It’s one team, moving in one direction.
It’s unlike anything Rayshawn Jenkins says he’s ever been a part of in the NFL; and soon it’ll add the quarterback he truly believes will be the league’s next “dude.”