Saints 2020 Year-in-Review: Malcolm Jenkins

We examine how well veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins played in his return to New Orleans in 2020.
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Heading into the 2009 draft, the New Orleans Saints were looking to bolster a struggling pass defense to support their explosive offense. The Saints used the 14th overall pick of the 1st round to select Ohio State safety Malcolm Jenkins. Improved defense helped the Saints to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl XLIV championship in 2009, with Jenkins making a big contribution as a rookie.

Jenkins developed into a full-time starter at safety for New Orleans in 2010, a spot he’d hold for the next four seasons. He intercepted six passes in his first five years with the Saints, adding 4.5 sacks and scoring three defensive touchdowns while annually being among the team's leaders in tackles.

Nov 29, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) fumbles a snap against New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 29, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) fumbles a snap against New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jenkins left New Orleans after the 2013 season, signing a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent six seasons with the Eagles, notching 11 interceptions, 7 sacks, and consistently being one of their leading tacklers. He was recognized as one of the league's better safeties, earning two Pro Bowl bids and helping Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title in 2017.

After entering free agency again after the 2019 season, Jenkins reunited with the team that drafted him. He signed a four-year deal at an average of $32 million dollars. High salary for a now 33-Yr old defensive back. Today's Year-in-Review spotlight focuses on how Jenkins performed on his return to the Saints.

MALCOLM JENKINS

New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jenkins was active against both the run and pass over the first part of the year, but wasn't really an effective playmaker. He had 32 tackles in the first five games. However, only one of those stops was for a loss, and he had just two QB pressures (1 sack) and wasn't part of a single forced turnover during that stretch. Worse yet, Jenkins was a liability in coverage, victimized repeatedly by opposing tight ends or slot receivers and often a step slow on deep responsibilities.

As the year progressed, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen used his veteran safety in a way that better highlighted his strengths. Jenkins was employed more often near the line of scrimmage, where he was lethal against the run. He was also used less in man coverage, instead teaming with free safety Marcus Williams in two-high alignments.

Sep 27, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) pursues Green Bay running back Tyler Ervin (32). Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 27, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) pursues Green Bay running back Tyler Ervin (32). Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The communication between Jenkins and Williams improved, and he played his best football down the stretch of the year. Jenkins finished the season with 3 interceptions, tying for the team lead and equalling his career high.

His 91 tackles were second only to LB Demario Davis among New Orleans defenders, and the third highest total of his twelve-year career. He added 2.5 sacks, 10 QB pressures, and finished with a respectable 70% completion percentage when targeted.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) looks to pass as Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) pressures. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY

Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) looks to pass as Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) pressures. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY

Jenkins has been an ironman throughout his career. He played in 100% of the defensive snaps in 14 games last season, including playoffs, and 99% of the defensive snaps for the season. Jenkins restructured his contract this offseason to save the team salary cap space.  He is recognized as one of the team’s leaders and will once again be an important part of the New Orleans defense in 2021.