In cornerback Janoris Jenkins, the Tennessee Titans are getting a player on defense that has a little different approach than a lot of the players they have had in the recent past.
Jenkins, a nine-year NFL veteran who prefers his nickname of “Jackrabbit” to his given name, is the type of player who talks the talk and then walks the walk, according to the man who drafted him – former Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
Fisher was coach of the Rams when they selected Jenkins, who had had a checkered past in college at the University of Florida and then at North Alabama, in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Now, almost a decade later, Jenkins come to the Titans after following up his Rams days with stops with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. Fisher vouches for Jenkins as a player who is both talented and extremely competitive even as he enters his 10th season.
“I hated it when the Rams didn't re-sign him as a free agent,” Fisher said. “It was hard losing him. I loved the kid. I've followed him closely and I'm really excited for their program and for the Titans. He's a good kid and a good player.”
The former Titans coach said that back when the Rams drafted Jenkins in 2012, they had done their research and homework on a player who had had issues off the field in college, and were satisfied that it could be straightened up and that Jenkins, who had first-round talent, would indeed make it in the NFL.
“He was a ball hawk. He had great ball skills and was extremely fluid in and out of his breaks, He's a very instinctive corner and an instinctive football player. He's great with the ball in his hands and he's a great athlete,” Fisher went on to say.
Fisher said Jenkins is a gambler on the field, but that in his remembrances of him, Jenkins guessed right far more than he guessed wrong in trying to make a play.
As time has gone on, Fisher said Jenkins has evolved both as a person and a player, but the competitiveness remains. Fisher indicated that Jenkins likes to talk to opponents and even talks on the practice field, but backs it up with his play.
“In his own way over the last few years., he's probably taken over some leadership roles by example and behind scenes,” Fisher said. “He's a very competitive practice player and as a result, he talks a really good game on the field on Sundays. He loves to visit with the opposing receivers.”
It is Jenkins' adjustments that have helped him last in the league as long as he has, according to Fisher.
It makes them better, but it works well for him, because he's comfortable doing it.
“Athletically, he's a little long in the tooth. At age 32. he's been around a while. But I was scouting him last year, and from what I saw, he hadn't lost anything at all.
“He's a technician and he knows that over time, you're gonna have to lean a little more on technique once those God-given skills level out a bit. He should play longer than most corners his age, because of his technique,” Fisher said.
The Titans likely will start Jenkins on the outside, but Fisher said that even in his 10th season, Jenkins is more than capable as a man coverage cornerback who can matchup against a No. 1 wide receiver and hold his own.
“He's an outside guy, a matchup guy that you can put on a team's best receiver. He travels well, because he can play left, right and inside,” Fisher said. “Mike (Vrabel) and Jon (Robinson) should be happy to have him.”
And it gives Fisher another reason to pay attention to his old club this season.
“He's one of my favorites. We had some Pro Bowl corners and Pro Bowl safeties. We had some defensive backs that were really good when I was in Tennessee, but Rabbit is right up there with them.”