Written by Matthew Cannata | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
When Jelani Jenkins was thrust into the starting lineup after injuries wiped out the entire starting linebacker corps, no one knew what to expect. Sure, Jenkins showed promise last year as a rookie but would he be able to perform at a high level throughout the entire game? So far, he's proven he can handle all of it and become one of the best 4-3 linebackers in the league in the process.
“It’s exciting. When you are in that backup role, you have to just keep practicing and playing like you’re going to be the starter, just in case situations like that come," Jenkins said. "When it does come, you go out there and perform and there can’t be any fall off. I guess I’ll say that the practice and preparation phase I was always practicing like I was the starter, for that situation when it came.”
Head coach Joe Philbin said he's been impressed with the way Jenkins has stepped up and developed.
“I really like the development. He’s a young player that didn’t have a ton of snaps last year. He had some. He kind of got his feet wet, but he’s really had excellent production. He’s a smart guy. He understands the scheme very well. He puts himself in position to make plays. I’m really, so far, very pleased with how he’s performed.”
Jenkins credits his success to a wide variety of factors - those surrounding him on the defense, the classroom preparation, the weight training, the extra time on the practice field and more.
“It’s a lot more to it. Practice and hard work and every game with experience you usually get better. I think I’m just getting more comfortable out there and it allows me to play fast. Whatever the coaches need from me, I'm ready."