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August 29, 2016

Malcolm Jenkins: I want to win a Super Bowl for the Eagles

Malcolm Jenkins is entering his third year with the Eagles, yet he’s been the kind of player that feels as if he’s been here for a decade. In February, after signing a new five-year deal, which includes a four-year extension reportedly worth $35 million, with $21 million in guarantees that carries through 2020, he’ll likely finish his NFL career as an Eagle.

Jenkins, whose new deal has a collective worth of $40.5 million, was in the final season of his original three-year with the Eagles. He went to his agent and expressed a desire to remain with the Eagles, who had no problems keeping him.

I want to win a Super Bowl for the Eagles. I’ll probably finish my career here. This team and this city have really taken me in and it’s something I really appreciate.

Jenkins, 28, is coming off his best season as a pro, making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. The 6-foot, 210-pound safety is entering his eighth season in the NFL and is considered one of the team leaders.

Jenkins sat with PhillyVoice for The Q&A just after training camp and discussed a potpourri of topics, from the Eagles’ expectations, to new coach Doug Pederson, to what it was like under Chip Kelly, to working in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s new 4-3 scheme, as opposed to Billy Davis’ 3-4. 

What are the expectations that you have for yourself this year?

Malcolm Jenkins: I expect to build more on last year. I’m starting to find a nice role here in Philadelphia. I feel comfortable here. I love the city -- it’s why I moved here and live in Center City. I’m starting to come into my own and I feel that I’m at a stage in my career where I’m becoming the best player I can be. I’m setting my eyes on the goal of another Pro Bowl, and helping this team get to a Super Bowl. I’m greedy [laughs]. I won one [with New Orleans]. I want another, especially here. 

How much does the Schwartz defense help you compared to Billy Davis’ defense?

I don’t know if this hurts me or helps me in any way. I think we’ll see a little more consistency than we have in the past. I think our front four is far better and this defense will allow them to disrupt some things, which will make it easier for everyone else on the field — and the secondary. With myself and the addition of Rodney McLeod, a lot of the duties that I had on my plate are gone with the Schwartz defense. This gives me a lot more time to fly around and freelance, do a lot of things I wasn’t able to do last year. 

What are the differences, in general, between the Schwartz defense and the defense you guys ran under Davis?

I think the big difference comes in the mentality. It is more of an attacking defense [with Schwartz], but we don’t blitz that much. It’s all about the front four attacking and creating, always moving forward and pushing. With the Schwartz defense, there is always disruption at the line of scrimmage, and that leaves the rest for us to play clean up. As opposed to a two-gap system, which we ran under Davis, where there isn’t much penetration and we maintain and react to what the offense does.

It changes the mindset of the defender.

You’re a safety that loves to play up close to the line of scrimmage. You love to attack. How much more excited are you to be in this system?

I won’t say that I’m more excited. I played in both systems the 3-4 and 4-3, and I think both are good, if you have the right personnel. I’m more excited to be running the 4-3 because of the guys that we have, and I think it works with this personnel. With McLeod, it just takes a lot more off of my plate as far as having to make calls and get everybody lined up. It also gives me the opportunity to be a little more versatile without having to worry about what safety is going to be behind me.

I think this system is fun. I like the front four. It gives us a lot more freedom to attack some of our opponents on the outside and still be able to put pressure on. I’m really excited to get out on the field and see what happens.

We’re going back to being a physical team. Things were really hard during training camp, which I think some of these guys needed. Anytime you’re dealing with a coach who understands the players, that always helps out.

This always seemed to be a 4-3 scheme, with Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox causing a ton of havoc in the middle, and your speed guys like Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham on the outside. Am I right?

The last two years we kind of had true defensive ends. Connor Barwin is kind of like an outside backer, who can drop into coverage and do well. The rest of them really struggled with dropping into coverage. With a 4-3, their hands are always in the ground and always being an edge rusher, which really fits guys like Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham a lot better.

I expect them to be real productive for us, because they’re playing their natural positions.

Why should fans believe this team can win this year?

I think this team put enough good work in during this offseason and this training camp to give ourselves an opportunity to be a good team. Our goal is to win the division and everything after that will fall into place. Our defense and special teams will have to be really good. Our special teams has been great, but not the last two years. Our defense, I feel, is much improved. We have to sustain our energy throughout the year. We have a good coaching staff and we have a plan.

Honesty, though, it’s all talk. Everything right now is all on paper. Doesn’t mean anything. We’ll see what we really have against the Cleveland Browns [in the season opener on September 11]. 

Why do you like about Doug Pederson? You really seem to have taken to this guy.

I think he’s a good coach. Being a former player, he understands what we’re going through, the process of putting together a game plan and the offense and defense. It’s an environment to learn, so a lot of young guys are learning and he’s created a really good atmosphere right now. I think that’s good for the players.

We’re going back to being a physical team. Things were really hard during training camp, which I think some of these guys needed. Anytime you’re dealing with a coach who understands the players, that always helps out.

Anyone that knows you knows there’s an old soul at heart. I like to say you’re 28 going on 55. Pederson has brought an old school mentality to his ways. You seem to be the kind of player who would embrace that.

I did and I am, but some of it was a little more old school than I would like [laughs]. A lot of it, talking about the basics of football, the physicality of training camp at times, the mentality of a game plan, running the ball and playing physical defense, those are things that have won in this league for years and years. So it’s not about re-inventing the wheel, this is about us finding out the formula for a team and doing the small things right all of the time.

That’s one thing I can appreciate about Pederson.

Fans in this city have bashed Chip Kelly. In what ways has being under Chip Kelly made you a better player today?

That regime gave me an opportunity to play to my strengths. They allowed me to play in the slot, play in the nickel, be versatile and not play deep the entire game, which more so fits my skill set. They also gave me the freedom to make calls and have input to what we were doing defensively and kept me really, really engaged. From a sports science standpoint, that helped me to better takle care of my body. I’m coming off of the healthiest two seasons I ever had in my career. I think physically and from a situational standpoint [playing under Chip Kelly] was very good for me.

Courtesy/Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

This is your third year here now. You’re recognized as one of the leaders of this team. What kind of culture do you want on this team?

The biggest thing is you always want a mentally tough, skilled team. We’ve had mentally tough guys. We’ve had skilled guys. But the closeness of the team hasn’t necessarily been at the championship level, I think, in the last two years. We’ve had tough guys, physical guys. Not that the team isn’t close, but you’re looking at other teams like the Seahawks, and those guys are invested in each other on and off the field. 

I think this year’s culture will give the opportunity to build toward that, through the hard training camp, through the offseason things we did. You see the camaraderie there and that helps out when you get to those tough games, when you trust each other and pick each other up.

That whole dynamic with Chip was a little overblown. ... A lot of that came from people who weren’t man enough to communicate what they were thinking. You have something to say, you say it.

Why wasn’t that culture cultivated by Chip or was it a player thing why that didn’t happen the previous two years?

I think it was a combination of both. It’s an environment, but it’s based more so on the players developing it. But there are also some things coaches can do to help that. Players are hanging out and can spend time with each other. You can build an environment where it can happen, but is it up to the players that have to do it.

I know all of the behind-the-scenes things you have done to promote that team bonding, with your charity functions and various community and social efforts where you invite everyone to participate. What more can be done?

A lot of guys are coming together already. A lot of guys are stoked, and you can see a difference in how the team operates. You can see how guys are now invested, and especially after [the Eagles] signed a number of guys this offseason. You know you’re here now. The schedule change [under Pederson] has guys at the facility, they know they have to be there. There’s not as much dead time. Training camp was hard. We had to lean on each other, we had to pick each other up. When we do have some free time, guys are hanging out with each other, being around with each other. We have to take advantage of that.

A lot has been done and we have to continue to do that stuff.

I can’t see Doug Pederson walking through the NovaCare Complex not saying hello to a passing player, as Chip was accused of doing. Did there have to be a culture shift after Kelly left?

That whole dynamic with Chip was a little overblown. To say someone is unapproachable, well, first you have to approach them to be unapproachable [laughs]. A lot of that came from people who weren’t man enough to communicate what they were thinking. You have something to say, you say it. Obviously, Chip wasn’t a people person. He wasn’t the most proactive when it comes to that. 

Moving forward with this team, from a personality standpoint, [Pederson] is someone you can come up and talk to. But there is still [a caste system] among players where their seniority and their experience, and their production on the field allows them to have different input than other players with coaches. But that’s something not afforded to every player.

That dynamic is still there.

I had a good relationship with Chip. I say what I have to say. That’s who I am. It’s always who I’ve been.

You’re spoken about in reference to the top five, top six safeties in the NFL. What goals do you have this year?

My goal is to be the best safety in the league. I think it’s what every player who wears an NFL uniform should be focused on. Why do you play if you don’t want to be the best at what you do? That’s what I work for every day and that’s I’m going to work for this year. My attitude is and will always be you play to be the best at what you do. I play well, we win. We win, we win the division and make it to the playoffs. Who knows from there?

I want to win a Super Bowl for the Eagles. I’ll probably finish my career here. This team and this city have really taken me in and it’s something I really appreciate. That’s why you’ll never see me blow off someone wanting a picture or an autograph. You might not be in the best mood -- we’re in the NFL, but we’re also people and we do deal with real-life things -- but I always keep it in mind that city loves this team and the players on it. It’s why I’ll always take the time out for them, because they’re so passionate about the Eagles. How can you not love playing for a fan base like that?

Read all of our Q&A's right here.

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