BRINGING MALCOLM JENKINS TO THE EAGLES MAY BE THE BEST THING CHIP KELLY EVER DID
Chip Kelly was large and in charge in Philadelphia as head coach, and while never the personnel director nor the GM, he had plenty of input on the roster.
Chip was coming off an impressive NFL inaugural campaign where his Eagles won 10 games and hosted an NFL Wildcard game at home in January of 2014.
The Saints rallied late in the fourth quarter behind Drew Brees and snatched the victory ending the Birds first campaign under Chip.
A couple of months later, free agency had begun. The Eagles had seen enough missed tackles and breakdowns in coverage from both Kurt Coleman and from Nate Allen.
They were ready to depart with both. They were looking for upgrades at the position. When they looked ahead to the draft, it wasn’t looking like there was a bona fide star at the safety position. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, and Jimmy Ward were thought to be worthy of a first round grade, and eventually were all drafted in the first round. But that would have been very rich for where the Eagles were picking in the mid-twenties.
They thought free agency was the way to go. And there were a lot of familiar names that hit the market. TJ Ward, Donte Whitner, Mike Mitchell were names that drew a lot of interest and eventually signed and are all very active and good players.
But the crème of the crop by many analysts was Buffalo Bills free safety, Jairus Byrd. His father, Gil Byrd, was a great player for the Chargers. Jairus had a league-best 22 interceptions in his first 5 years in Buffalo.
Fans were frenzied in Philadelphia that the Birds would do whatever was necessary to take the play -making safety.
Except Chip knew Jairus.
He was on the staff that recruited him to Oregon; and then had to coach him once he became the head coach.
When I asked Chip about Jairus Byrd he was pretty adamant that he would never stay healthy and hardly ever practice.
That’s what he did at Oregon .Chip couldn’t have been more prophetic in his analysis. Since Jairus signed with the Saints in free agency in 2014 and for other teams and beyond, he has played just 39 of 57 games and has had a mere three interceptions in the three-plus years.
Chip wanted Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints. A former No.1 pick by the Saints from the Ohio State University at cornerback, he would eventually move to safety where his tackling skills could be more pronounced and his leadership skills could be better served.
Since that signing in March of 2014 Malcolm has started 57 straight games and not only has eight interceptions but has taken four of them back for touchdowns.
He instantly became the leader of the defense under Billy Davis and now under Jim Schwartz.
He made both defensive coordinators’ job easier. When I was around the Birds a great deal under Chip and out at practice, Malcolm was the guy who asked all the right questions. He was the vet who would help a young Jaylen Watkins and others new to the league.
He presently leads the Birds in solo tackles. And those tackles have come from the safety position, from the nickel back position and from a variety of blitz formations where Malcolm is free to get after the quarterback.
There really isn’t anything he can’t do on the football field in his ninth season and there isn’t anything he won’t do for the team to put them in a better position to win a football game.
He also has the wisdom from playing on a Super Bowl Championship team in New Orleans in his rookie season.
It’s important to have those type of players on a roster because they keep perspective during the course of a long season on where a team is and where it needs to go.
As I write this a few days prior to their Sunday Night Matchup vs. the Dallas Cowboys, the Birds sit atop of the NFL at 8-1.
It’s pretty easy to get big headed during their bye week when everyone is telling them how great they are and we haven’t even sliced the turkey yet.
Malcolm is a veteran who can keep the workman-like attitude moving along when some teams get fat and bloated off of early success.
I spent a little time with Malcolm in Los Angeles this off-season at NFL NETWORK.
At the time he had just spent time in our nation’s capitol, Washington DC, speaking with authorities about police tactics in this country that he thought needed to be rethought and even retrained.
His protests and his public stances have all been backed up by his devout interest in changing the way we police our neighborhoods and how we can better be served. I salute Malcolm for backing up his beliefs with his devotion and his actions.
I am not surprised Malcolm spoke up. Long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee prior to our National Anthem on a Sunday afternoon, Jenkins was already hard at work behind the scenes and in neighborhoods trying to affect change.
I am not surprised because he has always been about more action than words. He has always been a leader on the field and that leadership carries off the field and will direct him to his next chapter in his life.
In the meantime, the best part of the Eagles success is how they are handling it.
When the Birds chase the knuckleheads out and leave as close to a fully committed 53-man roster with one committed goal of trying to win a championship, then it carries over onto the field.
This team is well led and Malcolm has been a big part of that commitment.
The only thing that is different now than when he arrived is the team around him is much much better.
Yes, Philadelphia, we do have a few things to be thankful from the short-lived Chip Kelly era. And the most important piece from that era still lines up every single weekend and plays his heart out. His position is safety and his name is Malcolm Jenkins.
Thank you Chip. *