Jenkins jury still out after insertion Job reviews are mixed as 2nd-year cornerback subs for injured Daniel

October 20, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

For the past 18 months, the Ravens have wondered what kind of player cornerback DeRon Jenkins would become.

Ever since they traded three draft picks to climb into the second round of last year's draft and select Jenkins out of Tennessee, the Ravens have been waiting for Jenkins to justify that price.

So far in his two-year career, he has been a disappointment. Unable to crack the starting lineup as a rookie, Jenkins once again began the year behind Donny Brady, the rookie free agent who beat him out for the right cornerback job in 1996.

And when the Ravens decided to bench the ineffective Brady last month, they signed veteran Eugene Daniel as his replacement, leaving Jenkins as the nickel back.

Early in the second quarter of yesterday's 24-13 loss to Miami, the Ravens were forced to lean on Jenkins after Daniel limped off the field with a pulled hamstring.

"It was no surprise that DeRon went in for Eugene. DeRon wasn't brought here to be a second-team guy, and he wasn't brought here to be a special-teams guy. He was brought here to be a starter," said left cornerback Antonio Langham.

"And I don't think he played a bad game. He probably had bbTC mental error here or there, but I think he did a decent job."

The reviews on Jenkins were mixed. In the first half, he dropped an interception after middle linebacker Ray Lewis had tipped a Dan Marino pass his way.

He followed that by allowing Dolphins receiver O. J. McDuffie to beat him several times on short, third-down passes that went for first-down yardage. Jenkins complicated his first half further with some suspect tackling.

In the second half, he surrendered three more pass completions for first downs -- two by McDuffie and one by receiver Lamar Thomas -- although he did regroup somewhat.

He didn't allow any big plays for long completions. He showed some strong run support. He finished with seven solo tackles.

"It seemed like he tackled a few times. I wish he would have caught that interception," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said.

"DeRon has got some ability, and he has to do the job. We know what Donny can do. We want to see what this kid [Jenkins] can do."

Marchibroda added that, if Daniel is not able to play against the Washington Redskins next week, he would decide later this week whether to start Jenkins or Brady.

After seeing the most action of his brief career, Jenkins said he recovered from a shaky start to salvage a pretty good afternoon.

"In the beginning, the first series or so, there were some adjustments.

"After that, I got the jitters out, felt more comfortable and got more confident in what I was doing," said Jenkins, who added that he knew Miami would come after him early and often.

"I know the tendency is to go after a backup as soon as he gets into a game. I didn't feel threatened. They [the Dolphins] can come at me all they want. I have to respond like a professional.

"I wanted to be starting by this point in my career. This isn't my rookie year anymore."

Langham said he helped Jenkins to settle down shortly after he entered the game for good. He reminded Jenkins to pay attention. Listen to the Ravens' safeties make the defensive calls. Calm down. Make some plays.

"DeRon had that look in his eye -- not that he didn't belong here," Langham said. "It was more like, 'Uh oh, I'm in here, now.' What's the point in being nervous?"

Jenkins, who is signed through next year, admitted he might be playing for his Ravens life over the next two months.

"I have to stay in that groove I found in the second half," he said. "I have to prepared to be put into the line of fire again. All I can do is go out every day of the week and get better."

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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