Malcolm Jenkins’ return to the Saints is a sentimental story of its own, but this is not why he returned to New Orleans. Sean Payton has reflected and admitted his decision to allow Jenkins to leave the team was a mistake. Then Jenkins won his second Super Bowl ring with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.
Many of Jenkins’ accomplishments since leaving the Saints may not be legendary, however, it was how he anchored an underachieving and sometimes injury-riddled unit that may have been more impressive.
Now we segue way to today.
The Saints have suffered crippling playoff losses in three consecutive seasons. You must analyze the why and how New Orleans loss to the Vikings, Rams, and the Vikings again. The young secondary performed well in those games. However, the last minutes in those games that went into defeat was because of a lack of leadership in the Saints secondary. New Orleans needed Jenkins to return. His leadership, wisdom, and game experience were missing components for the Saints.
I said this and I just said it recently, probably one of the bigger mistakes we’ve made. You gotta be able to look at them and say, ‘how did that happen?’ But letting him out of the building certainly wasn’t a smart decision. Sean Payton on Malcolm Jenkins
New Orleans will have many defensive challenges in 2020. They must face quarterbacks Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, and Teddy Bridgewater twice as their NFC South division foes. New Orleans will also battle the likes of Super Bowl MVP QBs Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes besides Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, and Carson Wentz.
These quarterbacks and their team offenses can pose problems for the Saints. The talents of TEs George Kittle (Niners), Kyle Rudolph (Vikings) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) will daunt a young secondary. If you combine those players with potent receivers like Tyreek Hill (Chiefs), Davante Adams (Packers), Mike Evans (Bucs), Julio Jones (Falcons), and Chris Godwin (Bucs), the Saints had to request the services of Jenkins. In 2020, Sean Payton recognizes that he cannot allow poor secondary performances to continue.
If the Saints have any chance of making the 2021 NFL Playoffs, Payton had to find a stabilizing force and field general for his youthful unit. Malcolm Jenkins was the best available answer. The Saints may lose S Vonn Bell in free agency. But Jenkins’s signing provides the team needed insurance going forward. The facts remain that another Saints playoff stumble will be a waste of Drew Brees at the helm of the team’s offense. It will be a waste with a large price tag of $25M if the Saints do not reach the Super Bowl this season.
Why Jenkins and not Bell?
New Orleans offered Jenkins a 4-year, $32M, up to $35M max, and $16.25M in guarantees. Jenkins' arrival signifies the need for a veteran presence that did not exist. Bell was one of the defensive squad’s vocal leaders and performed well for New Orleans at safety. Since Bell’s entry into the NFL, Pro Football Focus graded him high in Pass Rush (80.7) and Run Defense (90.2) for a Safety. However, he fell short in the major area of concern for the Saints, Pass Coverage. Malcolm Jenkins graded higher than Bell by with a 90.8 in Pass Coverage and 83.2 Overall grade over the past four years.
Last season, PFF ranked Jenkins as 17th in the NFL for DB Coverage and Bell was 55th overall. Bell had more missed tackles and allowed more completions and touchdowns compared to Jenkins. Based upon those stats, it appears age is not a factor for any decline in Jenkins’ play.
My old professor, Dr. Abraham Lincoln Davis, would instruct us to read the headline, then read for the story between the lines. I believe the real story for Sean Payton, DC Dennis Allen, and DB Coach Aaron Glenn is they required a true field general this season. New Orleans can not have any player lacking confidence at the safety position. When they will face the above quarterbacks in 2020 they need a person to read offenses, the quarterback, and receivers within seconds. Malcolm Jenkins has that ability. Keep in mind, Jenkins has always been a likable and caring teammate. He has the ability to take control, be constructive, and give vital insight young players desire these days.
Consider this point, he will have few years to teach and mentor one of the Saints’ rising stars in DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson also has the confidence/swag you need, and must have in an NFL defensive back. He had a forced incompletion rate of 20.4% and forced 9 incompletions on 44 targets. He played well in relief of an injured Vonn Bell for a few games. Pro Football Focus rated the Saints fourth-round (105th overall) pick as the only player with more forced incompletions (9) than first downs allowed (8).
We must keep in mind this would be S Marcus Williams fourth season with New Orleans. The Saints are very keen on the 2nd year Safety out of Rutgers University, Saquan Hampton. They drafted Hampton in the sixth round (177th overall) by New Orleans, but an injury towards the end of training camp limited him most of 2019. Expect Hampton and Gardner-Johnson to push Marcus Williams in the Saints 2020 training camp.
Malcolm Jenkins returns to New Orleans with an ability to read complex passing schemes and break-up routes early in the progression. He is a dependable tackler and can defend large TEs like Kelce, Rudolph, and Kittle. Overall, Malcolm Jenkins return is a logical move for the Saints. If they will have any chance for a second Super Bowl title, this could be one of New Orleans' best moves in this year's free agency.
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