Jenkins Takes a Step Off the Reservation
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — It's one thing when the "bad apple" speaks out of turn, it's quite another when one of the centerpieces of your much-ballyhooed culture does it.
Malcolm Jenkins has been the Eagles best player on the field in 2015 and the very epitome of what Chip Kelly wants off of it, a well-spoken, lucid man who contributes to the community and leads by example.
And Jenkins seemingly had bought into Kelly's vision, so much so that he, along with teammates like DeMeco Ryans and Jason Kelce, are the coach's conduits to the locker room as well as the media. Yet, it was Jenkins who went off the reservation earlier this week by questioning Kelly's methods when it comes to accountability on a disappointing 4-7 team.
In a traditional NFL environment like Jenkins experienced in New Orleans before signing with Philadelphia in time for the 2014 season, players generally hear about their errors during film sessions in front of the either the whole team or their specific unit, be it offense or defense. Kelly's mentality is a bit different in that those teaching moments are left to the position coaches when each group has their meetings.
Jenkins evidently prefers the former method.
"It's just my opinion," Jenkins said on WIP Radio earlier this week. "From a coaching style, I was brought up a little different. Most mistakes that players make were brought up in the team setting. But the approach here is in the individual rooms. That's by design. It's on purpose. A lot of times when things happen ... mistakes aren't pointed out in front of the entire defense."
Kelly got his retort in Wednesday before practice.
"Why don’t I do that?" Kelly asked rhetorically when queried about Jenkins' point. "Because my right guard doesn’t really care what our free safety does. So it’s not really efficient for Matt Tobin to listen what the instruction is going on with the free safety."
It's a fair point by Kelly toward the efficacy of those teaching moments but perhaps his defensive tackle does care about the free safety's responsibility on a particular play and the linebackers certainly should, especially if they are professionals who want to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.
"Me and (defensive coordinator) Billy David talk pretty often," Jenkins said. "I've been pretty open about how I feel. But I'm not a coach. And that's fine. I think, at this point, everybody is obviously frustrated and looking for answers."
So what say you coach Kelly?
"When you want to get detailed in terms of making corrections, it needs to be done in the position group. Because those guys are paying attention to what goes on at their position. In this sport, more than any other sport, it’s very not related. What goes on for an offensive lineman is totally different than what goes on for a defensive back."
Only Kelly knows for sure whether he was being disingenuous or specifically avoiding the synchronicity argument regarding defenders understanding the whole defensive concept and Davis himself was more caught up in Jenkins' additional criticism of the defense's predictability in the red zone.
"We move in and out of different coverages, and we show blitz and drop back," Davis said when speaking on Tuesday. "You can talk about red zone, but you also talk about third down. It not predictability because we do have enough scheme down there that I think we move in and out of it. Everybody's entitled to their opinion.
"I respect Malcolm, his opinion. I respect all the guys and their opinions. I actually enjoy getting the feedback from all the guys and seeing how we can make it better. Because at the end of the day, it's about us getting it done and getting a win."
If that's the goal, allowing 90 points in two games is indicative something isn't working and boiled down Jenkins' criticisms are constructive and designed to get everyone on the same page.
"I want to know what the plan is moving forward," Jenkins said. "What is the mistake and what are we trying to correct. But that approach isn't always right. There's a thousand ways to skin a cat. It's just my personal opinion. They expressed to me why we do it the way we do it. And I'm completely fine with that."
And Kelly, not surprisingly, is completely fine with the way he has been doing things.
"I think everybody should worry about their job," the coach said, "...rather than saying, ‘I’m not doing this, but how come this guy’s not doing this?’ That’s when you get into finger-pointing. That’s not conducive to being successful.
"I think everybody needs instruction, everybody needs help. And I think the more you can get specific with the individual player, the better. To be in a group setting and say I think the left tackle made a mistake here and I want everybody in the room to know that, that doesn’t help the right corner. The right corner is going to say, ‘I’m worried about playing press-man (coverage). Why am I listening to what’s going on with the pass rush? "’
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen