Jenkins' trial by fire ends with nasty burns Bengals take advantage of rookie on the corner

November 04, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Early in the third quarter of yesterday's come-from-ahead, 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Ravens cornerback Antonio Langham limped off the field with a pulled hamstring. As rookie DeRon Jenkins came on to replace him, veteran safety Stevon Moore offered some advice.

"I told him [Jenkins] that they are coming after you," Moore said. "I know, because I've been there. When you come into a game cold, you're not into the flow yet, and they are going to test you, to see where you're at."

Jenkins, whose contributions before yesterday had been limited to special teams and nickel coverages on defense, stepped into the fire for nearly the entire second half, when he was left in the unenviable position of covering Cincinnati wide receiver Carl Pickens.

Jenkins' performance rated mixed reviews, although he probably would love to forget one sequence he had to endure shortly after he entered the game.

Cincinnati had just cut the Ravens' lead to 21-10, and after they had intercepted Vinny Testaverde for the second time to take over at their own 23, the Bengals began a 77-yard touchdown drive in which they got some key help from Jenkins.

Three times, Jenkins was called for penalties on that drive, once each for illegal contact, holding and pass interference, in each case while he was covering Pickens.

The pass interference call came in the end zone, where Jenkins gave Pickens an untimely shove out of bounds while Jeff Blake's pass was headed his way. Soon after that infraction, the Bengals cut the Ravens' lead to 21-18.

Then there was the play that preceded the pass interference call. Pickens ran a short out pattern, caught Blake's pass on the right sideline in front of the Ravens' bench, then turned upfield for a 27-yard gain. Jenkins dived futilely at his feet and blew the tackle that would have confined the play to a short gain.

Jenkins, whom the Ravens drafted in the second round back in April, refused to give Pickens too much credit.

"The ref gave him [Pickens] two bad calls, basically. Maybe the one in the end zone should have been called, but those other ones were bad calls," Jenkins said. "This is an offensive league and receivers get away with a lot of pushing."

Langham watched the whole series from the bench, where he sat with ice on his leg, powerless to help or even offer tips.

"When I came out, I just told him it's your turn, because I'm not going to be able to go back," Langham said. "You've got to let them know that you're for real. You've got to be able to step up to the challenge."

Jenkins, who allowed Pickens to catch three passes for 43 yards but regrouped to play decently in the fourth quarter, finished with three solo tackles. He also refused to use his late entry into the contest as an excuse.

"As a defensive back, this is how it is. You have to be ready to step up and make plays. This is how it was when I came into college [at Tennessee]," Jenkins said. "You fight through adversity to get better. You do whatever it takes to raise the level of your play. If I hadn't done that in college, I wouldn't be here now."

"So many things went wrong in the second half that you can't point the finger at him," said Moore. "It was a bad series for him, but you've got to come back in the next series and cover some guys, pick off a pass, keep fighting. He is a good player, and he'll get it done."

Jenkins, who may start in Jacksonville next week if Langham's hamstring injury does not heal, promised to rebound.

"I have the skill to play in this league," he said. "And I'm going to do whatever it takes to play."

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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