Jordan Jenkins characterized his first professional season as a "big learning experience." While he endured his share of bumps and bruises as any rookie would, he took his game to another level in the final quarter of 2016.
"As I was looking back at some of the earlier games compared to when I played in the later ones, I feel like I'm a totally different player," he said. "I'm starting to feel more comfortable out there. I'm having a little bit of the swagger back as the tough guy talking trash type of attitude that I had in college. It's something that I'm going to have to get back into feeling and getting more comfortable."
Jenkins' exclamation point came against Bills in Week 17 when he strip-sacked QB EJ Manuel and recovered the ball. In the Jets' last four games, the Georgia product registered 17 tackles, four tackles for loss/no gain, 2.5 sacks, and seven QB hits.
The 2016 third-round pick credited his homework for his improved play. Jenkins said he amped up his film study and preparation after a "bad experience" in Week 9 against the Dolphins where he felt responsible for a blown coverage that resulted in a touchdown.
"I learned in the Miami game and a couple of the other games that you really have to be dialed in 100% of the time. You can't afford not to study film during the week so you can be prepared for all the adverse situations that you might not usually see during practice. If you would've spent time during the week, you might've seen it already.
"I just really learned how to be an effective player, what it looks like and how to be a pro. I wouldn't trade anything else that happened this year for anything in the world. The season didn't go the way we wanted it to, but I learned a lot of things, played with a lot of great players and I'm excited for the future."
Jenkins is a part of a rookie class that is close-knit and has laid the groundwork for the future on both sides of the ball. Six of the seven 2016 draft selections all started at least one game this season (only Christian Hackenberg didn't play) and three other rookies received the nod as well — WR Robby Anderson, WR Jalin Marshall and DL Lawrence Thomas.
"That's most definitely something we want to try and do because our rookie class has contributed all across the board and that's something we really like about each other," said Jenkins. "We got together and really wanted to make sure that we step up next year and expand our roles. Just to try and suck up more information and get on the field more. Be better teammates and leaders next year."
The next step for Jenkins involves two things —his pass rushing skills and completing his education. An insurance risk management major, the Hamilton, GA native will take two of his final five classes at his alma mater.
"Most definitely in the offseason I need to work on my lateral quickness because there's times I'm over striding or I could be a lot quicker," Jenkins said when he and his teammates cleared out their lockers in early January. "I'm not getting my feet down. I also need to work on my upper body strength so I can press off of blockers and be more effective. I can get guys off me, but there are times where I might be struggling with a block and if I had the upper body strength needed, I could just tear off and make a play a lot quicker. That's one of the things I'll be focusing on this offseason."