Cullen Jenkins has a reputation as a disruptive pass-rusher from the defensive tackle position, and has 38.5 sacks in a nine-year career to back that up. Having signed with the New York Giants as a free agent in the off-season, the 32-year-old knows, however, that run defense has to be his top priority.
Jenkins has been graded as a plus run defender only once since Pro Football focus began scoring players in 2008. He was +2.7 as a defensive end in the Green Bay Packers 3-4 defense in 2008. Last season, as a defensive tackle in the Philadelphia Eagles' 4-3, he was -9.8. His scores in 2009, 2010 and 2011 were basically neutral.
In 2012 the Giants surrendered 4.6 yards per rushing play, 28th in the NFL.
"I faced criticism my whole career in if I can play the run or I can hold up. I always just thought I got a chip on my shoulder or something to prove," Jenkins said during Giants' voluntary workouts last week. "I've been on some pretty good run defenses in my time in the league. I think I've even been on a number one ranked defense back in the day. It's just something to prove being able to play whether it's inside or outside."
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Jenkins signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the Giants, $3 million of which is guaranteed.
"The biggest factor when I came in I really felt wanted here. It’s hard to explain. How they looked at playing me, how I fit into the system," Jenkins said. "It’s a system I’m used to and then looking at the team. It’s a team that wins that expects success. It’s not a team that’s rebuilding. It’s a team where I’m coming in and just trying to just help them continue the success that they’ve been having in the past."
Jenkins joins former Eagles teammate Mike Patterson, along with Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin as potential pieces in the defensive tackle rotation.
"Ever since I've come into the league, my goal was just to improve every year. Try and get better," Jenkins said. "Look at the areas in my game that I don't feel I was played as well in the previous year and just keep improving and keep proving to myself and to everybody else what I'm about."