Head coach Anthony Lynn was most recently on the latest episode of The Adam Schefter Podcast and he dropped several nuggets of information that may help fans decipher what he expects out the team and some individual players going into the 2020 season.
At the end of their chat, Schefter asked Lynn if he could name a player, either on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, that he believes will enjoy a breakout year this coming season.
His player? Free safety Rayshawn Jenkins.
That may come as a surprise to most of you who actually spent time watching Jenkins closely during the 2019 season. You probably are a little peeved just recalling the memories you have of him because most of them involve missed tackles and blown coverages. Some of you may also remember he led the team in interceptions with three. Jenkins definitely had himself an up-and-down season, but if you ask me, the ups weren’t anywhere close canceling out the downs.
When explaining why he chose the former fourth-round pick, Lynn went on to say that he “saw it coming a couple years ago.”
“The young man, he’s re-focused. He’s changed his body. I thought last year putting him at free safety he made it hard for our second-round draft pick to get on the football field and Rayshawn just got better and better. I mean, he finish as one of the top-5 free safeties in the game last year, in my opinion. And he’s just going to take it to another level.”
Now that last comment is what gets me pretty heated. A top-5 free safety in the entire NFL? That’s.....something else.
According to Pro Football Focus, among safeties that played at least 80% of their team’s snaps in 2019, Jenkins was 30th among 37 safeties with a 63.1 overall grade. His 52.8 tackling grade was 30th, his 50.4 run defense grade was 36th, and his coverage grade of 67.5 was good for 23rd. Now, I don’t know about you, but nothing about those numbers scream “top-5” free safety” to me.
Jenkins came out of the NFL Draft with a ton of upside due to his elite athletic testing. He can jump out of the gym and run with the best of them. It’s just been the stuff between the ears and his tackling fundamentals that has limited him from reaching his next level. I hope with another season under his belt he is able to make it click, especially with some consistency. After all, the team had him put on weight in 2018 to get to 220 as a back-up strong safety and then had him get back down under 200 when he switched back to free.
When Lynn was done stating his case for Jenkins being the free safety of the future, Schefter had a laugh and speculated that the duo of Jenkins and Derwin James both on the back end of the defense would be quite the formidable pair. “That’s what we’re banking on Adam,” said Lynn.
At the end of the day, we’d all hope it ends up that way. We all want success for the team. As long as it works, I’ll be banking on it, as well.