September 16, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21) celebrates during the second half against the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Redskins 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

A Case For Janoris Jenkins As The NFC West's Best Cornerback

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Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much debate as to who is the best cornerback in the league, Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson? This debate could go on all day as both are great cornerbacks.

Sherman lead the league in interceptions last season, but many believe his success benefits from playing with the other players in what they call the “Legion of Boom”. Some have also said that Sherman has benefited from the system in Seattle and that he would struggle on another team.

Peterson on the other hand plays more man to man and is that shut down corner that many teams look for. Not only that, but Peterson is versatile and he can return kickoffs and punts.

Unfortunately for the Rams, both of these players play in the NFC West which can make throwing the football very difficult and is why having a run game is so crucial. However, the Rams have a duo on their own defense that has a lot of potential. Both struggled last season, but the duo of Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson has a lot of upside.

It’s hard to make a case for Jenkins being the division’s top cornerback going off of last season, but going off of what he showed his rookie season, and his potential moving forward, Jenkins is the best cornerback in this division.

Carolina Panthers linebacker, Luke Kuechly, not only stole the defensive player of the year award from Robert Quinn this year, but he very well stole defensive rookie of the year from Janoris Jenkins in 2012. Jenkins had four interceptions, and had  three defensive touchdowns.

Those four interceptions his rookie year are more than Peterson had his rookie year and is equal to what Sherman had in his first season. However, where Jenkins excelled most is that whenever he touched the ball, he did something with it by scoring three touchdowns. Sherman only has two defensive touchdowns in his entire career while Peterson has yet to record one.

Looking at the grades on Pro Football Focus, Jenkins also ranked higher than Peterson did his rookie season as Jenkins was rated as the 101st corner with -7.9 grade while Peterson rated 102nd with a -10.8 overall grade. Richard Sherman however, graded as the 16th best corner with a respectable 9.2 overall grade in his rookie year.

The sophomore season is where Jenkins really takes a downfall. While Jenkins only had one interception in his second year, Sherman and Peterson combined for 15, eight for Sherman and seven for Peterson.

What we have to remember though is that Jenkins was dealing with a first time defensive coordinator that had little right to be making calls on defense, everybody else in the secondary struggled, and he was dealing with sub-par safety play at best. Not saying Jenkins would have had eight interceptions had those pieces been in place, but he surely would have had more than one.

We also need to remember who these players have as a supporting cast. Jenkins has Johnson, another second year player, T.J. McDonald, a rookie, and Rodney McLeod, somebody who would get very few, if any, snaps on any other defense in the NFL.

Sherman has the Legion of Boom, and they aren’t called that for no reason. Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor, as well as the guys behind them that give that secondary great depth. Thomas is arguably the best safety in the NFL and Browner could be a number one cornerback on a lot of other teams.

As for Peterson, he has held his own more than Sherman has, but he still has had help. Las season he had  Tyrann Mathieu, who surprisingly graded as the third best cornerback in the NFL on Pro Football Focus and gave that defense versatility in the secondary. He also had Greg Toler and then Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell to have his back at the safety position. In Peterson’s seven interception season he had Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson behind him. That’s still a decent supporting cast.

For Jenkins, last season the highest rated safety in the Rams secondary came in at number 41 with Darian Steward, McLeod then rated at 75, the worst combined ratings among the Cardinals’ and Seahawks’ safeties.

You can argue that Jenkins has the best defensive line in football to help him out, but that has little to no effect when you are being forced to play 10-yards off the line of scrimmage giving the defensive line little time to force a bad throw and most of the throws being easy completions given the space.

With Gregg Williams that problem should be solved and there is no doubt that we should expect to see more of 2012 Janoris Jenkins. He has also had a limited supporting cast up to this point in his career, and may have been thrown into the fire as the team’s number one corner before he was ready as Cortland Finnegan flamed out earlier than expected. However, going into his third year, there is no doubt Jenkins should be ready.

At this point it’s hard to have a lot of faith in Jenkins, but remember, this is the guy that was the hero in 2012 at home against the 49ers. This guy made plays when plays were needed, and there is no reason not to believe that he can get back to that level.

Sherman and Peterson have certainly earned their right to be considered the not only the league’s but the division’s top two cornerbacks. However, Jenkins isn’t far behind and really could make some noise in 2014.

 

 

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