Rayshawn Jenkins could be an unexpected ‘X’ factor in the playoffs
During the last game of the season in Denver Desmond King sat the first quarter in order to get Rayshawn Jenkins some game reps. Could this possibly be to get him some live game experience before playoff time? Jenkins got several repetitions at the slot corner position as well as a dime package safety. Drafted as a big bodied development project (6’1” 214lbs) out of the University of Miami in round four, Jenkins is now in his second year as a pro. Viewed as a great fit for Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme, Jenkins has sort of become an afterthought as rookie and fellow big bodied safety Derwin James has been nothing short of sensational. However Jenkins getting more playing time could possibly be a great thing at a great time.
Most Charger fans are aware how thin the team has become at the linebacker position due to injuries. It started with rookie Kyzir White, middle Denzel Perryman, and most recently Jatavis Brown. This all is hardly ideal heading into the start of the playoffs. Bradley’s defense requires a strong coverage linebacker as is common in today’s modern NFL. Enter the big bodied safety Rayshawn Jenkins. With Adrian Phillips another back up safety, however much smaller, has already been playing outside linebacker on third downs and more recently middle linebacker after the injury to Perryman. I would imagine that now that Brown has his season end last week that Jenkins could possibly play outside linebacker on coverage packages leaving Phillips employed at the Mike position. Now we have seen Emanuel even get rep’s at Mike however when the team faced Baltimore a few weeks ago Emanuel didn’t see the field much as to go with more speed seeing as how Lamar Jackson seems to run as much as he throw’s as he is highly athletic. I expect it to be much of the same this week and go with the assumption that Emanuel will not get many rep’s unless it’s in a goal line or short yardage situation.
With all of these thing’s considered and based off of how the defense was set up against the Ravens last time I would not be surprised to see Jenkins get playing time as the weak side linebacker while Phillips gets in as the middle linebacker the majority of the time. That’s two back up safeties playing linebacker. There is of course Hayes Pullard who will likely get his fair share of repetitions on early downs. It’s just that I expect Jenkins to slot in on passing schemes and situations. If Pullard struggles he could be pulled while the others get more of a full time role. However Bradley is great at making adjustment’s, so it is also possible that if Pullard is playing well early on that they could continue to go with him in more of a full time type role. Either way the first quarter of play will dictate and set the tone of how the linebacker rotation will go moving forward. It could be much like this for the remainder of the playoffs as they are going with what is on the roster and much of it has been plug and play patch work.