- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Mike Jenkins was miserable last year.
The Dallas Cowboys cornerback wanted a trade because he was frustrated with his role as a backup.
But Jenkins decided to remain patient and wait his turn. Monday night against Carolina, he makes his second start of the season, and the fifth of his career.
"You got to relax," Jenkins said. "When I first got here, I knew I had a role to play, and I had to put that in my head. This year, I have another role to play because they have us in this battle right now. [This] situation can be hard, but you have to be a man about the situation and just go with whatever the owner or coach tell you to do and be a player."
Jenkins is sharing the right cornerback job with another second-year player, Orlando Scandrick.
Last year, the Cowboys fell in love with Scandrick's ability to cover receivers in the slot and his mental approach to the game. As a nickel corner, Scandrick recorded five pass deflections.
Jenkins, who started three games for an injured Terence Newman last season, finished with six pass breakups and returned his only interception for a touchdown.
But it was clear that Scandrick was the better player.
The problem: Scandrick was a fifth-round pick out of Boise State; Jenkins was a first-rounder from South Florida.
Jenkins thought he would compete with veteran Anthony Henry for a starting job, but the Cowboys pushed Jenkins down the depth chart after the team signed Pacman Jones.
"When I first came in, I was in a crazy situation," Jenkins said.
Jenkins tried to fit in with the veterans and learn from them.
But Johnson and Jones had previously been suspended by the NFL for unprofessional conduct. And Owens was suspended by the Philadelphia Eagles for his conduct in 2005.
You could say Jenkins was getting a negative vibe.
"I hung out with the rookies a lot. But the corner I was in, those guys took me in," Jenkins said of the veterans. "Hanging out with the older guys, you kinda want to see what's going on, instead of being with the rookies all the time.
"It kind of gets in your head, and you start following and not being a leader. That's what I'm trying to do right now, is being a leader. No matter what my role is right now, I want to help everybody."
When the Cowboys cut Jones and traded Henry during the offseason, it opened the cornerback job. Once the preseason ended, coach Wade Phillips named Jenkins and Scandrick co-starters.
Jenkins started the opener at Tampa. Scandrick started last week against the New York Giants and struggled, missing three open tackles and getting beat on several pass plays.
Phillips hasn't ruled out naming a full-time starter, but it's based on performance -- and this week it's Jenkins' turn.
"It can get frustrating," Jenkins said. "I kind of let it get to me prior to the season. I let it go toward the first game. Last week, when Orlando was playing, I was in his corner the whole way.
"It will break us apart if I'm worried about if I'm going to start this week or if I'm going to start next week."
Jenkins is getting comfortable with his role.
And he isn't thinking about any trades right now.
Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins escapes "D-Block" mentality, focuses on being leader.