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Giants’ Janoris Jenkins embracing role as a mentor to young cornerbacks

The Giants have a lot of young corners, and Jackrabbit is enjoying helping them

NFL: New York Giants-OTA Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If, about a year ago, you took a poll of New York Giants fans of which of their big 2016 free agent signings would still be on the roster in 2019, the most common answer probably wouldn’t have been Janoris Jenkins.

In 2019, however, Jackrabbit remains and finds himself as the elder statesman of the Giants’ secondary. Now, he is surrounded by young players, many of whom haven’t taken an NFL snap yet — and he is the defacto leader of the group. Fortunately, Jenkins isn’t afraid of a leadership role, though he prefers to lead with his work on the practice field.

“I just go out and ball.” Jenkins said of his leadership style. “I let them pick my brain when they want to, and if I see them messing up, I pick them up a little bit. Other than that, they seem like they’re ready to me, and I can just lead by example.”

Being a mentor

Whether he anticipated being a mentor to a horde of rookie corners, that is what Jackrabbit is now. The good news is that it isn’t a foreign role to him. He has mentored younger corners going back to his time at the University of Florida.

“I’ve never been asked,” Jenkins said, “but I always played this role when I was at Florida – had that one national championship. When I got to North Alabama, I did the same thing. So, it’s nothing new, it’s just – I’m not the guy that likes to talk, I like to play football. If you can’t follow a leader that likes to play football, then you have a problem.”

“Just being around them, just having them come up to me and have conversations about football,” he added “I tell them every day, just pay attention to details, make sure you take the right notes, and just stay focused.”

On the rookies

On DeAndre Baker

After talking about mentoring the Giants’ stable of young corners, Jenkins was asked for his impressions of his new teammates. First up was the one with whom he will likely be on the field with the most, first round pick DeAndre Baker.

“As a player, I can tell that he’s smart, I can tell that he’s been studying film, I can tell that he’s taken leadership, taken mentorship roles just looking up to guys like myself,” Jenkins said. “He’s in the film room every day studying, he’s always on time, and we always say in the DB room that there is no such thing as a dumb question. You can always ask a question, whether it’s the smallest question—it might be a dumb question—but like we say, no question is a dumb question, and I think that’s going to help him along the way.”

Baker is a very physical corner back, but one of the biggest hurdles to clear is finding the right time and place to physical, as well as the right amount of physicality to use.

“I told him you could be physical,” Jenkins said, “but you got a certain level to be physical because you don’t want to get up there and be too physical and have guys push you off and throw you by and stuff like that. So we getting that under control right now.”

On Julian Love

The Giants have tried their fourth round pick at both slot corner and free safety, perhaps setting him up as a future free safety who moves to slot corner in nickel situations. When asked about Love, Jenkins noted that versatility, saying, “A guy that can play multiple positions, very smart, got a knack for the ball and just likes to study.“

On Corey Ballentine

Corey Ballentine, the third corner drafted by the Giants in 2019, comes in to the NFL under a shadow most rookies don’t have to deal with, losing a close friend and being shot himself shortly after being drafted. Jenkins went through a similar tragedy a year ago himself. And while the two have talked about the subject, Jenkins’ main advice to Ballentine is simple: Just play ball.

“Man, you’re here to play football,” Jenkins said, when asked what his advice to Ballentine has been, “you can’t worry about any outside distractions. Your main focus should be football and football only, it’s just when you show up to work make sure you focus on football. He understands that, he understands what happened. He can’t take it back so just come here every day and work.”

And when it comes to playing ball?

Jenkins has been impressed, saying, “As a player oh, he can play. He has a nose for the ball. You can tell he’s been coached very well by a very good coach, whoever that may be because he’s technically sound and he’s aggressive.”

The new pass interference rule

Perhaps the biggest change to the NFL rule book this year is that coaches now have the ability to challenge pass interference calls — or non-calls. As a veteran player who will be directly effected by the new rule, Jenkins was asked his opinion.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said, “it gives us the opportunity to challenge the play, whether it’s a good play or a bad play because in the NFL every game is won by 3-7 points at the most, so I think it’s great.”

Darrelle Revis was the best corner in the NFL for years on end not just because of his athletic ability, but also his mastery of how to interfere with receivers without getting caught. But now coaches on the sidelines can challenge the play as well, even if the officials miss the interference.

So what if an opposing coach catches a bit of pass interference that Jenkins thought he got away with? “I’ve got to live with it,” he said, “that’s something I got to live with.”