Jenkins' struggles at the safety position thus far have been for a number of reasons. The adjustment to learning a new position, the mentality as the last line of defense to go for a tackle or big hit instead of the ball, poor hands, a scheme that often dropped him 20 yards or more behind the line of scrimmage, and a poor pass rush. The 2009 version of the Saints, the one that featured Darren Sharper notching 9 interceptions, had the luxury of a 35 sack season. Since Jenkins has been a free safety, the Saints notched 33 sacks in both 2011 and 2012. That may sound similar, but the Saints generated much more pressure in the latter to years with blitzing, leaving Jenkins out to dry. In 2009 the Saints got 13.5 sacks from Will Smith, 5.5 from Charles Grant and 5 from Anthony Hargrove. The front four did a tremedous job of getting pressure, and the Saints blitzed less as a result. By 2010 and 2011, the d-line was so poor getting to the quarterback - Gregg Williams resolved to blitz whenever possible. That left the free safety less "free" to roam, instead committed to playing in deep center field as the last line of defense in an attempt to avoid disaster. 2010's d-line pressure was poor (6 sacks for Ellis, 5.5 for Will Smith, then 4 for Vilma and 3 for Harper) but 2011 was arguably worse (Roman Harper led the team with 7.5 sacks. The best d-lineman was Will Smith as 6.5).
Steve Spagnolo's scheme, a bit like Gregg Williams', is still at the mercy of the players within it performing well. I've come up with some historical numbers of his past defenses, but it's important to realize the Saints don't have Justin Tuck, Michael Straham, Chris Long or Osi Umenyiora in their prime on the team. Still, consider these front four sack outputs by Spag run defenses:
In Steve Spagnuolo's 5 years as a defensive coordinator or head coach, the defensive line owned about 70% of the team's total sacks. In 2010 and 2011 for the Saints, the d-line owned 62% and 50% of the team's sacks respectively. By comparison, a Spags lead defense has only dropped below 65% in 5 seasons once.
Part of that is having more explosive edge rushers, for sure, but part of that is a commitment to put pressure with the front four. That allows linebackers or safeties to help in coverage, which will help Jenkins have more liberty back there as oppose to a specific assignment when you're always in zero blitz. Still, while the new scheme will theoretically give him more chances, it won't improve Jenkins' playmaking ability, it won't improve his hands, and it won't improve his ability to close on the ball. Improving those things are all on him.
This is a big year for Malcolm Jenkins. There's been talk of star potential, but he needs to turn the corner this season if that's ever going to happen.
What happened this morning. Your Tab on my laptop went to Blogin Home page. Had to jump through a few hoops to get here. (:-)>
I've said that our hold defense should be better, with this scheme. The D-line should be able to generate some pressure, with the better coverages I expect out of the LB'er core and the Db's not having to play so far off, due to the past send everybody blitz mentality. People have called me out on this, but as I've stated before, no one can bring pressure on the QB, if he is free to release the ball before you can get there. look for Sacks and QB hurries to rise this year and that should also play into Jenkins having more opportunities. Can't ball hawk if you are constantly having to tackle blown coverages.
@cajuncommando58 might that be one of the reasons Sharper never came back his old self? Because of Williams his scheme? Also I wonder.. is Williams far from being a Sean Payton kind of coach. Surprising with a new D, but underperforming the longer he coaches the same guys. His last 5 minutes as coach were absolutely his worst. Sean can at least reinvent the offense.
@cajuncommando58 good question, I was wondering the same thing myself. Normally it fixes itself but I noticed it still hasn't. I'll ask.