Jenkins gets his turn to claim corner Experience showing through for third-year DB

August 02, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Before the Ravens played their first season in Baltimore, the team stacked itself for the future with draft picks, Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Jermaine Lewis, all of whom have made an impact.

One member of the Ravens' class of '96 has yet to fulfill his promise, but this year might be his turn.

Cornerback DeRon Jenkins enters his third year, and after two shaky seasons at the corner, he has had an impressive camp and may turn out to be the starter opposite Rod Woodson on Sept. 6 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jenkins, who started the final four games last season, looked impressive at times but still suffered from growing pains.

Yet now, with the departure of Antonio Langham, the retirement of Eugene Daniel, and the holdout of first-round draft pick Duane Starks, Jenkins finds himself practicing on the first team, and he wants to prove he deserves it.

"Sometimes when you are a young player, you get frustrated with the speed of the game," Jenkins said. "There are a lot of mental things, little things, that make you a better player."

Throughout the first few days of camp, Jenkins has impressed coaches with his coverage and by limiting his mistakes.

"He's doing well in coverage," coach Ted Marchibroda said. "He's not by far where we want him, but he is really showing us how well he can play."

Jenkins also is showing more maturity.

"Another year of experience definitely helped DeRon," secondary coach Alvin Reynolds said. "Starting six games helps him, and like everybody else at this point in camp, he is working on the mental part of it all."

Jenkins, the 55th overall pick in 1996, remains confident in his ability, the ability that made him first team All-Southeast Conference his senior year at Tennessee. He's counting on his experience to help.

"Now I get to play against teams in the conference that I've already seen and I know the tendencies of the receivers and how they move and everything's not new," said Jenkins, whose 44 tackles were 10th on the team last year. "That allows you to actually play the game instead of thinking."

While Jenkins continues to impress, the Ravens still intend to shore up a position that was down to four players last week.

Off the field, Jenkins calls himself a homebody. During the off-season, he lives in St. Louis, where he was born and raised, and enjoys being with his 4-year-old son Syrus, whom he has custody of for three months during the off-season.

"I've always been family oriented," Jenkins said. "I grew up in a single-parent household and my older brother and sister helped to take care of me. We were always very close. And that's how I want to be with my son.

Jenkins said that Syrus, although only 4, can recognize his father from his No. 25 during his games. If Jenkins' steady play continues, Syrus will have more opportunities to spot his father on the field.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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