Cornerback finds his fit with Cowboys' defense

Posted Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- Mike Jenkins reached down to his locker and knocked on it when someone mentioned the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks have yet to allow a touchdown.

Jenkins, in fact, has not even allowed a catch.

Of course, he hasn't played much either. He missed the season opener while coming back from off-season shoulder injury and played only six of 64 plays in Week 2.

But the Cowboys knew all along they would need him, which is why he is still here despite the team's off-season acquisitions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh missed last week's 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs with a calf injury, and the other starting safety, Barry Church, joined him on the sideline with a season-ending Achilles injury. That forced the Cowboys to play cornerback Carr at safety with Jenkins back in his familiar spot at outside corner. Jenkins played 31 of 60 plays and broke up a pass.

"We really like Mike Jenkins," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We like him a lot as a player, and we like him a lot as a person. There are a lot of reasons to like him. We just needed to be patient with his injury. He needed to fight through some of the business aspects of this decision, get him back, embrace him and get him going. That was our philosophy all along."

Jenkins missed all of the 2011 preseason with a neck injury. He played through shoulder and knee injuries during the season and still was the team's best cornerback. Garrett said it was a turning point in Jenkins' career as the "respect level" rose for the former first-round pick with what he played through for 12 games.

Jenkins needed shoulder reconstruction after the season, and while he was in Florida rehabbing, the Cowboys signed Carr to a $50.1 million contract and moved up in the draft to take Morris Claiborne.

The moves were welcomed by everyone at Valley Ranch except No. 21. While it was much needed for a defense that had yielded the second- and third-most passing yards in team history in consecutive seasons, Jenkins lost his job.

Jenkins' agent requested a trade. The Cowboys, in what might have been their best off-season move, showed patience with the fifth-year veteran.

"It was kind of a crazy situation whether he was going to be back or not," Sensabaugh said. "For him to fight through his injury, work hard and get back on the field, just to see him out there competing the other day, it almost brings a tear to your eye, a guy having that much passion for the game. He's the Mike Jenkins that he was for us when he was a Pro Bowl player [in 2009]."

Jenkins finished last week's game with only one stat -- a knockdown of a pass intended for Vincent Jackson. But it was an important play. It let Jenkins know he was back, that his shoulder was good as new.

"I used the [surgically repaired] arm to go up and get the ball," Jenkins said. "It was a big challenge for me just going up. That was actually my first time really using my arm like that. Going through practice, I never really get a chance to actually go all out and jump up for a ball and come down on my arm that physical. ...It felt good."

Jenkins' role remains somewhat uncertain. Carr and Claiborne are the starters. Orlando Scandrick is the nickel back. Carr, Claiborne and Scandrick have combined to allow only 13 catches for 188 yards.

Jenkins doesn't know where he fits in, but he accepts that he likely will play less than in recent seasons.

"I always want to be on the field," said Jenkins, who is in the final year of his contract. ... "I'm just going to leave it up to Rob [Ryan]."

Charean Williams

817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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