Jordan Jenkins sounded like a sports talk radio caller, preferring to focus on the negative. While admittedly pleased to an extent with how his third NFL season has gone, he glossed over the positives to emphasize what needs to happen in the future.
The Jets’ outside linebacker isn’t ready to classify this year as a breakout campaign, even if he has already more than doubled his sack total from a year ago, producing a team-leading seven, with two games remaining.
This has to be the start.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but by no means have I felt like I’ve arrived,” the 6-foot-3, 259-pound Jenkins said Friday following practice. “There’s still times where I’m not necessarily getting pressure on the quarterback. There’s still times I’m not gap-sound. I got to work better leading into this next season about consistency and trying to be effective every moment I’m in the game versus little spurts here and there.”
Jenkins can recall three plays in particular that still bother him, such as missing a sack that was there against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars in Week 4, and failing to hold the edge on runs by the Broncos and Browns. Considering how this season has gone for the 4-10 Jets, those mistakes seem very minor. But not to Jenkins.
“I play a lot of devil’s advocate,” he said. “I still think about the plays that I missed. I want to be as perfect as I can. Some people try to forgive and forget. I try to think about those [mistakes] so it doesn’t happen in the future.”
After producing a combined five-and-a-half sacks in his first two seasons, the 24-year-old Jenkins has seven with two games to go. He also has forced two fumbles, recovered two and notched 33 tackles, showing the kind of promise the Jets were looking for after selecting him in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Georgia.
Jenkins has made a concerted effort to be more of a factor rushing the quarterback. He’s working on varying his moves, to keep offensive linemen off balance, thinking the game more than merely being out there. He’s happy with his sack total, but would be far more content with a big finish and getting to double digits.
“It would mean everything,” he said. “I feel more confident when I’m out there. I just feel like I’m throwing some other moves out there and setting up rushes. I’m sort of game-planning rushes.”
Most importantly, Jenkins has been durable, appearing in all 14 games after playing in all 16 the previous season. Jenkins suffered an ankle injury in the Jets’ come-from-behind victory over the Bills on Dec. 9 when offensive lineman Dion Dawkins chop-blocked him.
Initially, Jenkins was ruled doubtful to return. When he was getting treatment in the locker room, he heard on the radio his return was unlikely.
“I was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m not going to sit here.’ I didn’t want to sit inside a locker room,” said Jenkins, who is questionable with the ankle injury, but expects to play. “I told them to just give me a new tape job, put some spray on it. I didn’t want to sit in the locker room knowing everybody else was out there still fighting. I couldn’t sit there. It’s just the way I was raised. If you’re hurt, you play through it. If you’re injured, you recover.”
He, indeed, returned and made two tackles. Jenkins added a sack last week against the Texans and is hoping for a big finish as the Jets face elite quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady to close the year.
“It’s definitely a building block. Really excited about the progress I’ve made in that department,” he said, referring to his sack total. “I’m happy about it, [but] I always want more. Trying to steal a sack on two of the greatest quarterbacks to play this game these next two weeks.”