Veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is seeking a 12th NFL season, and a third with the New York Giants. Should they give it to him? Let's look at that question as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp about a month from now.
2014 Season in Review
In his 11th season, Jenkins was slowed by a calf injury. He played in 12 games, and had just one sack and eight tackles. That is the first time since he was a 3-4 defensive end with the Green Bay Packers in 2007 that Jenkins has not registered at least 2.5 sacks in a season. Jenkins was still effective, though, with 17 pressures and a +6.5 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus. He was poor against the run, however, with a -7.1 PFF grade. Jenkins played only 366 snaps after playing 718 in 2013 and 642 in 2012.
2015 Season Outlook
At 34, the finish line is in sight for Jenkins' NFL career. If you were creating an unofficial depth chart for the Giants right now you might pencil Jenkins in as a starting defensive tackle opposite Johnathan Hankins. And that could well end up being the case. If you are building a projected 53-man roster, however, you can also come up with scenarios where Jenkins doesn't even make the team.
Perhaps oddly, Jenkins spent much of the spring as a placeholder for the Giants, lined up at the defensive end spot usually occupied by Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP, of course, has yet to sign after the Giants used the franchise tag on him. Entering his 12th season, the Giants can't really think Jenkins, who hasn't played significant snaps at defensive end since 2010, is a viable option outside. Can they? Maybe Jenkins was only at defensive end because Pierre-Paul wasn't, and because Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore and Owamagbe Odighizuwa all missed time in the spring. Still, it seemed strange.
Another thing that may cloud Jenkins' future is the Giants' need to get better at defending the run. As a defensive tackle, Jenkins has always been more pass rusher than run defender, as evidenced by his PFF scores from 2014. Second-year man Jay Bromley and free agent signee Kenrick Ellis figure to get significant snaps at defensive tackle opposite Hankins. Markus Kuhn is up to 320 pounds and, whether fans or media members agree or not, the organization seems to like what Kuhn offers. They are also curious about Dominique Hamilton, a big defensive tackle who was on the practice squad last year.
The Giants also have six defensive ends -- Pierre-Paul, Ayers, Moore, George Selvie, Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn -- who belong on NFL rosters. With Steve Spagnuolo's penchant for moving DEs inside on passing downs, perhaps the Giants keep one fewer defensive tackle than normal, in which case someone like Jenkins or Kuhn could be vulnerable. The Giants could save $1.425 million against the salary cap by cutting Jenkins.
It seems as though I have built a case for why Jenkins won't be part of the Giants in 2015. That could be how things go down. He could also end up as part of the defensive tackle rotation, probably mostly as a pass rusher.
Your thoughts, Giants fans? Does Jenkins have enough left to give the Giants one more productive season?