Commentary

Pro Bowl was just a start for Jenkins

Updated: May 24, 2010, 12:04 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins was raving about how teammate Roy Williams was looking like a No. 1 receiver, going after balls and running hard, crisp routes during organized team activities.

Jenkins then discussed first-round draft pick Dez Bryant, and how impressive he was on the field.

[+] EnlargeMike Stamey
Matt Stamey/US Presswire"You can have a great year and come back the next year and get torched," Mike Jenkins said about making the Pro Bowl. "All I want to do is come back and be a team player."

But while he was talking about the receivers, the same accolades could have been made about Jenkins, who had a breakout season with the Cowboys in 2009.

Jenkins had 49 tackles -- 45 solo -- and led the team with five interceptions and 23 passes knocked down.

Yet, Terence Newman has the big contract, travels to Australia and is one of the more recognizable faces at Valley Ranch. Jenkins, however, is turning into the best cornerback on this team.

Jenkins was rewarded for his efforts by being named to the Pro Bowl, as was Newman. Jenkins originally was an alternate and was upset he wasn't named to the NFC squad. Afterward, he changed his tune, saying he overreacted.

Jenkins now thinks the Pro Bowl stuff is silly. It's nice and all, but ...

"No doubt, I feel like it's nothing but a title," Jenkins said. "For me, anybody can be a Pro Bowler. You can have a great year and come back the next year and get torched. All I want to do is come back and be a team player."

Jenkins has improved vastly from his rookie year in 2008. The first-round pick from South Florida struggled to play zone defense after he played man-to-man in college, and he was surpassed by fifth-round pick Orlando Scandrick on the depth chart.

So while Scandrick was the slot corner, Jenkins mostly watched. He started three games in 2008, returning his only interception for a touchdown.

Prior to the 2009 season, Jenkins was pushed into a battle with Scandrick for the starting job after Anthony Henry was traded to Detroit.

Scandrick and Jenkins alternated the starting role the first two weeks of the season. But after Scandrick struggled in a Week 2 loss to the New York Giants, Jenkins became the starter and hasn't relinquished that title since.

In Week 3, Jenkins intercepted a pass from Carolina's Jake Delhomme. Two weeks later, he grabbed another against Atlanta.

The Cowboys knew they had their cornerback of the future to go with Newman.

"He understands. I don't have to say a thing about him," secondary coach Dave Campo said of Jenkins. "He understands what he does in practice determines what he does on Sunday."

Case in point, during last Monday's OTA practice, Newman got beat on a route only to be bailed out by Jenkins rushing over from the other side of the field. Jenkins might not have done that his rookie year; he might have just watched the play develop instead of reacting.

Jenkins will tell you he spent too much time thinking about what to do -- good and bad -- instead of just moving around playing.

"The third year, it's about the little things," Campo said. "He learns more stuff off the film. All I have to do is point it out on film."

Turnovers are a sore subject around Valley Ranch these days.

Teams employing a 3-4 defense are supposed to get more turnovers because of the pressure generated from the outside linebackers and how the free safety plays center field.

The Cowboys had just 21 forced turnovers last year -- 11 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries.

Jenkins hopes that number increases and he's the man to make that happen, especially if quarterbacks are throwing his way.

"If you do it, I'm going to come down with it," Jenkins said. "That's my mentality."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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