Jenkins Earns Defensive Honor

Posted Nov 28, 2012

Soon after Wednesday’s afternoon practice session came to a close, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins was informed that he had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his two interceptions and two touchdowns in last week’s game against Arizona.

There was little fanfare and nobody made too big of a deal about the award. In fact, Jenkins found out only moments before talking to media courtesy of a veteran teammate and mentor.

“Cortland (Finnegan) just told me as a matter of fact,” Jenkins said. “He just told me ‘congratulations’ and ‘keep ballin’.’”

The message was direct and to the point and Jenkins made it abundantly clear he didn’t have any intention of basking in the glow of his first major NFL honor. To the rookie from North Alabama, there are far bigger fish to fry.

“I feel pretty good,” Jenkins said. “I feel like we played good, we can always get better. I’ve got to put that behind me and just come out and work this week to get better. I like it. Everybody likes recognition but you have just got to keep working.”

Jenkins is the third Rams to win a weekly honor this year. Coincidentally, he is also the third Rams rookie to win a weekly award, following on the heels of special teams versions for punter Johnny Hekker and kicker Greg Zuerlein.

It speaks to where the Rams have been in recent years that Jenkins is the first defensive player to win the award since Chris Long did it in week 6, 2010. Before that only safety Oshiomogho Atogwe won the award since 2004, claiming it in 2008.

Still, for Jenkins to consistently put himself in the running for such honors, he and Rams coach Jeff Fisher are well aware that there is work to be done.

“‘Jenks,’ he has two pick-sixes in a game, which I say we could attribute that to the reason we won the football game because we got the ball in the end zone twice on defense,” Fisher said. “But, there were still other things in his play that need to improve and those are the things that we have to focus on with him.”

Namely, Jenkins still must continue to work on his recognition of what’s happening in front of him without getting caught staring into the backfield in hopes of making a big play.

That tendency has seen him get beat for some big plays this season and has been the impetus for a rookie season rollercoaster that has alternately earned him praise and criticism.

Despite the ups and downs, Jenkins’ confidence in his skills has not waned.

“I have the same confidence week in and week out,” Jenkins said. “I just look forward to getting better, going in the film room and correcting the mistakes we made and I made as a defensive player.”

But Jenkins said Finnegan’s guidance has paid dividends in improving that aspect of his game.

“The first couple weeks I wasn’t really able to see route concepts,” Jenkins said. “I am seeing things clearer now thanks to Cortland, film studying, him getting with me and just helping me along the way.”

One other area Jenkins must improve if he is to continue making big plays is his touchdown celebrations. Finnegan told Jenkins that upon scoring his first touchdown, he should spin the ball, pop the rubber band on his wrist and dance around the ball as though he’s making the ball dance.

Jenkins tried the celebration after each touchdown and neither came to fruition, drawing some ribbing from his teammates. 

“They were cracking me,” Jenkins said, laughing. “I’ll have to keep working on it.”

If Jenkins is able to get more opportunities to celebrate, considering he plays cornerback, it will likely only yield more awards like the one he received Tuesday.

That wouldn’t really come as a surprise to his teammates, who are the first to crack on him for a bad touchdown celebration but also the first to acknowledge Jenkins’ vast potential.

“(He’s a) ball hawk, a guy that can not only get the pick but can take it the distance,” safety Quintin Mikell said. “He’s just getting better and better with more experience, and I’m excited for what he can do in the future.”

TURNOVER TIME: The Rams finally got the monkey off their back against Arizona when they broke their five-game takeaway drought but victimizing Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley for four interceptions.

On Wednesday, Fisher pointed to his team’s secret practice turnover weapon, scout team quarterback Kellen Clemens.

“We credited Kellen because he threw about a dozen picks last week on the practice field so we gave him the credit,” Fisher said, a sly grin creeping across his face.

In a more serious manner, the Rams know that one week of getting takeaways does not mean the issue is permanently cleared up. Against a Niners team that hasn’t given the ball away much this year or in the past two years in general, the task of stealing an extra possession take on even more importance. 

“We just have to keep going,” Fisher said. “If you want to look at the turnover thing, we are still not getting fumbles. We were fortunate to get the interceptions but we still need to get on balls and knock them loose.”

GIVENS DIVERSIFIES: There’s little doubt that rookie wideout Chris Givens is the team’s premiere deep threat, the type of speedy wideout capable of making big plays down the field.

Givens proved as much with his early season streak of five consecutive games with a 50-plus yard catch, which set a rookie record.

Against Arizona, Givens began to show a more complete receiving game, catching out routes, a tunnel screen for a catch and run and other non-go routes. The result was his first 100-yard game as a pro.

Now, as Givens continues to expand his game, he only become more dangerous, according to Fisher.

“He’s doing that,” Fisher said. “His numbers were a little different last week. He had some different receptions than what we are used to. The touchdown was what he does well but we’ll just have to continue working out here and design some things. People respect him as a deep threat so we would expect him to be more productive underneath.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams got back to work on Wednesday with a couple of mild surprises popping up on the injury report.

Receiver Danny Amendola was back in a walking boot for his injured right foot and did not practice. He played through the injury in Arizona.

Linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow) also did not practice, as expected.

Joining that duo was running back Steven Jackson (foot), center Scott Wells (knee) and end Robert Quinn (concussion).

Jackson is simply getting a rest day much as he did last week and should be fine this week. Wells and Quinn are a bit different.

Fisher said Monday that Wells made it through the game OK but it remains to be seen whether his absence Wednesday was a simple maintenance issue or something else. His previous injury was a foot issue.

Quinn must be cleared of symptoms before he can return to practice.