In a year where the Miami Dolphins weren’t quite sure what was going on with their linebacker corps, Jelani Jenkins has emerged from the bench into one of the best young linebackers in all of the NFL. Jenkins, who got his chance after Dannell Ellerbe was injured for the season early on, hasn’t looked back and has firmly established himself as a starter for years to come.
“I think all around he’s played pretty well. He’s a guy that I think we all knew, felt good about maybe his pass coverage ability even last year,” Joe Philbin said. “He had limited opportunities somewhat, he certainly contributed a year ago, but now he’s made a lot of tackles in the run game, his run fits have been good. His pad level, taking on blocks, his block protection has been relatively good. We felt that he was an intelligent player and that certainly has kind of come to fruition. The more he’s played, he gets himself in pretty good position most of the time to make plays.”
Kevin Coyle said he’s not surprised at the success Jenkins has had so far this season because he has always seen it on the practice field and the meeting rooms. It was always just a matter of him developing and learning his trade.
“I think Jelani has really stepped up and taken on the challenge of being a leader on the defense. He’s got very good athleticism, he’s an instinctive player and finds the football. He continues to come up with plays when we need them. I just think he’s finally gotten the opportunity and now he’s running with it. We’re pleased with his progress. There are still things that he could do better, there are things that he could have done better last night as he knows. But at the end of the day, he’s playing at a high level for us.”
If you’ve followed the Dolphins for the past several years, you know that the linebcakers have nortiously struggled against linebackers. However, this year, they are ranked at the top of the league when covering tight ends. A big part of that reason is Jenkins.
“He’s certainly part of it and we’ve done some other things with some of the other guys. We’ve used a variety of different combinations to cover tight ends. Sometimes it’s a safety, sometimes it’s a linebacker matching up with him. But yeah, I like what’s he’s done in coverage. For sure.”
For Jenkins, he said that he’s just trying to work hard and continue to improve. In regards to the Baltimore Ravens, he feels that the keys to defensive success will be stopping the run first and make them one dimensional. He noted that they won’t expect a lot of surprises from the Ravens as they are a team that holds true to what they do.
Jenkins will definitely be a big part of the Dolphins for years to come and it’s great to see him growing up right in front of our eyes.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs