Terence Newman is an elite cornerback, but turns 30 this year and might demand enormous money when his contract is up in a year. Roy Williams has become a liability in coverage, forcing the Cowboys to consider moving Anthony Henry to safety to team up with Ken Hamlin. The team recently signed Adam "Pacman" Jones, whose talent is beyond debate, but he has a long way to go to prove to anyone that he can follow team or league rules … not to mention the fact that he has yet to be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
After a trade with the Seattle Seahawks moved the Cowboys' second pick up from No. 28 to No. 25 in the first round, Dallas drafted South Florida Mike Jenkins (5-10 ¼, 197, 4.4). Some had Jenkins rated as the best overall cornerback in the draft, but just about everyone had him in the top two or three.
What he becomes, at least at first, is the greatest insurance policy Wade Phillips could ask for. If Henry moves to safety, or Jones has another off-field braincramp that prohibits him from ever playing for Dallas, Jenkins leaves the Cowboys with three extraordinarily talented corners. If Newman walks at the end of the year for big bucks elsewhere, Jenkins, Henry and Jones still would leave the team with a solid trio in coverage. And if the Henry-to-safety experiment goes awry and Williams continues to struggle when the ball is in the air, Jenkins could play inside at safety, too, after spending some time there in college.
As South Florida burst on to the national scene with its rise to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this season, Jenkins became well-known in a hurry, and ascended to the top of many scouts' cornerback lists.
Jenkins plays bigger than he is. He has very good speed, but that's just part of his athletic ability. He changes direction and accelerates very quickly, and he's a strong leaper with very long arms, letting him battle bigger receivers all over the field. His hands will get better with pro coaching, but until that happens, he breaks on the ball quickly and adjusts well to the ball in mid-air, allowing him to break up a lot of passes (27 in his last two seasons).
Jenkins had just six interceptions in four years at South Florida, including three in 2007, but that's more of a reflection of the fact that many teams simply didn't throw to his side of the field. He was the anchor of the USF secondary, and also is effective in coverage roles on special teams. He has the luxury of learning from Newman and Henry, and perhaps Jones, and projects as a future starter in Dallas.
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