Let’s be honest. During a high-stakes, free-spending offseason the biggest gamble the New York Giants took was signing Janoris Jenkins to a rich five-year contract that guaranteed him $28.8 million. They paid Jenkins like a shutdown corner when, in fact, what he had been in his first four seasons was a play-making, but inconsistent performer.
Yours truly was among those who pointed out the gamble the Giants were taking, and they may yet look back on the riches they handed the 27-year-old with regret. Right now, though, they have to look at Jenkins as a God-send. No offense to Olivier Vernon or Damon Harrison, the other high-priced free-agent signees by the Giants, but Jenkins has easily been the best of the three thus far. He has, in fact, been among the league’s best cornerbacks through six games.
“I think you'd be hard pressed to find a corner in this league who's playing better than he is,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “When asked to man-up and cover, he's a shutdown corner. When asked to match up with the top receivers, he does it, he plays both sides. When asked to be patient and play zone and play within the scheme, he does it. I'm happy for him but not happy for us.”
That sentiment, of course, is because Jenkins spent his first four seasons playing for Fisher’s Rams.
“It was a disappointing loss for us. He's an outstanding young man, one of my favorites that I've ever had an opportunity to coach. With all due respect to the other corners in the league right now, it's hard to find one that's playing better than he is,” Fisher said. “We made every attempt and it's just one of those things that happens in free agency. So I was disappointed. I spoke with him, he wanted to come back, it's just didn't work out; it was out of our control.”
That, of course, is because the Giants — with a new head coach in Ben McAdoo and desperate to improve a defense that was the worst in the NFL last season — bid goodbye to 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara and blew the rest of the league out of the water with their offer to Jenkins.
“Business is business,” said Jenkins. “Before I signed with the Giants, I told them (the Rams) that I wanted to stay, but like I said, it was part of a business plan and it didn’t work out.”
Jenkins has been the stabilizing force in a secondary that has been ravaged by injuries. Safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe have missed several weeks. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple have also both missed time with leg injuries.
“There were never any issues with him from the mental standpoint. He sees things, he's hard to fool, he plays within the scheme and I can assure you, you guys have probably have not been in a defensive meeting room, but I can pretty much assure you that he sits in the front row because that's what he did here,” Fisher said. “He's a student, he studies, he competes, quietly. He's got great ball skills and he's playing really well.”
Giants’ coach Ben McAdoo recognizes how good Jenkins has been for the Giants.
“He's playing good football; he's aggressive, he's a competitor. Everything as advertised,” McAdoo said. “The thing that surprises you is that you really don't know what a guy is like until you get him in here and he's a tremendous leader. Tremendous example for the young players.”
The Giants showed what they thought of Jenkins right away, having him shadow Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1. Bryant caught just one pass for a measly 8 yards.
Jenkins deflected the compliment when told of Fisher’s praise.
“I don’t know. I am just playing football and doing what I do. That is a nice compliment, but I am just going to stay focused and continue to play football,” he said. “I don’t talk about it. I let people like you all do the ratings and say what you all have to say. I just play football.”
Jenkins did say he didn’t feel any pressure being in New York as opposed to spending his first four seasons in St. Louis. Or because of his huge contract.
“I never give in to the hype or the ‘he says, she says’. Wherever I go, I just look forward to playing football and that will be my main focus,” Jenkins said. “There is no pressure. There are just more lights (in New York). That is it.”
The Giants certainly have to be glad that those lights, and the mountain of responsibility they have placed on him thus far, have not been too big for him.