Fresher Jenkins will be more effective

For Cullen Jenkins, this off-season has been a godsend, a time to physically rejuvenate himself.

Jenkins reached the top of the football world last season by playing in NFL Europe, then scratching and clawing against other linemen in training camp to win a roster spot with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent.

For any football player, especially for a defensive lineman, it was a long haul that began in March with NFL Europe and ended in January. Toward the end of the season, he was sluggish and worn.

"It was a long year, but ..." It was worth it for the second-year pro.

Despite fatigue that set in, Jenkins, 24, managed to give the Packers a number of snapshots of his potential and worked his way into the starting lineup. He started six games last season, including four straight early in the season when a knee injury sidelined starting nose tackle Grady Jackson. He also started the eighth game of the season against Washington and the season finale at Chicago.

Looking back at last season, Jenkins realized that he will have to be in better condition to withstand the long NFL season. So, he has been working on his overall conditioning this off-season in Green Bay. Jenkins says he is on pace to enter training camp at about 290 to 293 pounds. Last year he weighed between 294 to 298 pounds on most weeks.

"I looked at some of the tapes from last year and how I looked during some of the long series and toward the end of some games," Jenkins explained. "It looked like I kind of let up a bit because I was getting tired. I dropped a little bit of weight now and am trying to get in better condition."

By losing a couple pounds, Jenkins is optimizing his quickness, which should help him get to the quarterback more often. For a defense that allowed opposing quarterbacks to finish with a 99.1 rating last year, this is good news.

New defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes what he has seen out of the lighter Jenkins and probably will use him more at defensive end than at tackle. Jenkins practiced mainly with the ends during the June minicamp and only played tackle because of injuries to other tackles.

"He has the talent to make plays for us," said Bates. "We're playing him outside on first and second down. On third down we'll move him inside. He'll be a multiple position-type guy, but he's doing a good job at defensive end. He can play on those tight ends and that really sets the edge. It looks like he has some outside rush ability on first and second down."

After playing in NFL Europe in the spring of 2004, the undersized but quick Jenkins made the team primarily on the pass-rushing ability he flashed during practice and preseason. After going without a sack during the first six games, Jenkins got a half of a sack in the seventh game against Dallas then solo sacks in consecutive games against Washington and Minnesota. He also recorded a sack at Philadelphia and another in the finale at Chicago.

Along with his 4 1/2 sacks, Jenkins had 28 tackles, 18 of which were solo, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and two passes defensed.

The Packers desperately need to improve their pass rush. The rested Jenkins has showed the coaching staff this off-season that he can be more effective at end than tackle.

Todd Korth

Editor's note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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