Playing nine seasons in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has worn green his entire career. These days, Jenkins likes the look and feel of a primary color. Signed to a three-year, $8 million contract with the New York Giants in the offseason, the 6-foot-2, 305-pound veteran is expected to help fortify a Giants run defense that ranked 25th last season (129.1 yards per game).
"That's what you've got to do," Jenkins said. "I know first-hand what will happen if you're not stopping the run, if you're not getting the sticks in your favor, if you don't have the score in your favor in the game."
Improving a defense that fell on hard times last season when it finished 31st in total defense (383.4 yards a game) was a priority for the Giants and they believe Jenkins, 32, can help improve those numbers. In addition to Jenkins, New York added Jenkins' former Eagles teammate, Mike Patterson, drafted Johnathan Hankins and re-signed Shaun Rogers, the burly tackle who missed last season with a blood clot in his leg.
Familiarity is breeding comfort in Jenkins' first training camp wearing blue and white. There's the presence of Patterson and defensive line coach Robert Nunn, who coached Jenkins for four years in Green Bay.
"It's going really good," said Jenkins on the adjustment phase. "This is a great group here. This is a great defense. Between the defensive coordinator and Coach Nunn, they expect a lot out of you. We take it to the practice field and work hard every day, so I'm really liking what I see."
Jenkins comes off a down 2012 season in Philadelphia (51 tackles, 4.0 sacks), but tied a career high with seven tackles (five solo) against the Giants last September. Fourth among NFL defensive tackles with 21.0 sacks since 2009 and 16.5 since 2010, Jenkins has played in eight postseason games and provides the experience to mentor younger players including Linval Joseph, the Giants' second-round pick in 2010.
"Linval is really good," Jenkins said. "He's a strong man; really strong. I can't even work out with Linval in the weight room, but he's one of the first people in here every day. Out in practice he's always busting his butt and you have to respect it. He's got some bright years ahead of him and I think he can do a lot of things in the league."
Whether you're a rookie or vet, if you're a Giant, you're on notice. General manager Jerry Reese said at the dawning of camp that one playoff appearance in four years isn't enough, despite the Giants being a year removed from winning a Super Bowl. Bring it on, says Jenkins, who has embraced Reese's edict to go far in the postseason with the ultimate goal of playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium.
"I definitely like the fact that it's a winning environment and they expect so much," Jenkins said. "The past is the past and I wasn't here for a lot of it. But one thing I know is what's expected this year, and that's what we have to do. That has to be our goal and we can't try to get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to take it a day at a time right now, at camp and as we get into the regular season, game by game."
Nunn is impressed with Jenkins' toughness and versatility.
"I think he can go inside, he can play outside, we can do some different things, which, in turn, will allow us to different things with some of our other guys," Nunn said.
"He's a very explosive guy, talented guy, has matured a lot. He's a different guy than he was in Green Bay. He's a guy that has gotten better and better as time has gone on. The passion he plays with and the toughness, he's another guy that plays tough. On Sundays, he's a tough guy. We need that in that room."
Off a 4-12 season in Philadelphia, Jenkins is happy with his fresh surroundings -- and new set of threads.
"Yea, I actually like the blue," Jenkins said. "It's different. My wife said the same thing, that they can finally get some jerseys this year that look a little better."
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