When the Oakland Raiders signed veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins this offseason, they couldn’t be completely sure what they were getting.
Since the Dallas Cowboys made him a first-round pick back in 2008, Jenkins has had an up-and-down NFL career. From a decent rookie season, to a breakout 2009 campaign, to a huge letdown in 2010, the Raiders’ new cornerback is a rather large question mark despite his five years of experience.
In recent seasons, Jenkins became a weakness in the Dallas secondary. Consistently getting burnt and giving up big plays, he has struggled to contribute the type of highlight plays necessary to counteract the production he’s giving up. There’s no denying the potential is there, though, for him to return to 2009 form.
When he was enjoying the best season of his career, Jenkins amassed 49 tackles, five interceptions, and 19 defended passes while asserting himself as a dominant presence in the Cowboy’s defensive backfield. Out from under the shadow of Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick, Jenkins shined bright in 2009. And then the light faded as quickly as it came…
Now with the Raiders, Jenkins is penciled in as a starter. There’s a very real possibility he could fall down the depth chart, though, if he doesn’t impress during training camp.
With 2013 first-rounder D.J. Hayden likely to assume the No. 1 cornerback job, Jenkins will face off against fellow offseason acquisition Tracy Porter and the underrated Phillip Adams for the other starting spot. His experience as a starter might give him the leg up on the competition, but a training camp full of underwhelming play could force a tumble for Jenkins.
Jenkins and Porter are both frequent burn victims, but the latter has more of a knack for making big plays. Unless Jenkins shows some of the spark that made him a Pro Bowler in 2009, you can bet he’ll see plenty of sub-package play with the Raiders this season – just like he did last year with the Cowboys.
He might not be a complete bust, but Jenkins isn’t a shoe-in starter.