Jenkins has quietly been a rising play on this Chargers defense. He struggled in Week 1, missing tackles and being not much more than a “clean up guy”, which is a personal term for a guy who comes and helps with the tackle when the runner is already pretty much finished.
It’s not a fault, as it’s good to see the 11 guys to the football mentality at work, but it’s more of a luxury than a necessity from a free safety. All that said, Jenkins didn’t get much opportunity to show his range in this game, and he is relatively new to the position, so you can give him a break against the Colts.
It was Week 2 where we saw the pros and cons of Jenkins at free safety. He intercepted Mathew Stafford on a deep seam over the middle, where the quarterback was obviously trying to do far too much to get his team back in the game, and Rayshawn made him pay for testing him.
The con in this game was tackling. Rayshawn simply was not a good tackler in Week 2, as he missed several that could have been stops, or no gains, but instead went for five yards or more. At this point, you see Chargers Twitter split on Rayshawn, some saying he needs to be benched, some saying he needs to move to strong safety.
Week 3 we saw Rayshawn snag what should have been a game-changing interception, but it was taken away by a phantom King facemask call. Deep breaths… Anyways, Rayshawn displayed a flash of elite range on the play, getting to the sideline and taking away a poorly thrown ball from Deshaun Watson. Not to say he is elite, it was a flash of a particular skill being elite, and that is the difference there, and pretty much where it stands with him.
Now, that paints a pretty picture of Rayshawn’s season thus far. A bit up and down, with more positive than negative. Now, just to clarify, the Dolphins are a bad roster. An awful roster. They have a great coach and a good game plan going into their games but don’t have the talent to hold up. It is a big reason they keep the score close at half against some of these better teams, then lose it after the half. That said, Jenkins showed great plays against this struggling Miami team.
First, he was all over the field in run support. The Chargers elected to move Jenkins around more often in this game. He would start at free safety, then move up to cover the hook zones. Other times he would start in the box, then sprint back to cover the middle third.
It wasn’t just the alignments the Chargers gave him, but also his range. Again, Jenkins flashed elite range on particular plays, outside runs in particular. The Dolphins ran a jet sweep with wide receiver Jakeem Grant, but Jenkins closed in like a missile and wrapped up beautifully before he could turn the corner. This was also thanks to Nwosu, who disrupted the play from the start.
Secondly, his tackling was more secure than it has looked all season. Kenyan Drake looked to be off to the races early on in Miami’s first drive. While the play was eventually called back, you can’t write off what happened during the play. Rayshawn was one on one against an extremely athletic spell back, and even though Drake put on a move, Rayshawn kept his balance in his athletic stance and was able to adjust and contort his body, showing off incredible hand strength to trip up Drake.
These are the big things you need to expect from a free safety, and most likely a big reason rookie Nasir Adderley hasn’t seen the field much.