Malcolm Jenkins has already played 1,338 snaps this season. What's a few more?
The NFL announced Tuesday evening that Jenkins was named to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for Giants safety Landon Collins. It's the third Pro Bowl selection of Jenkins' 10-year career, all coming in the last five seasons since he signed with the Eagles as a free agent in 2014. Only Brian Dawkins has made more Pro Bowls (7) as an Eagles safety.
Jenkins, the ironman of the defense, was on the field for all 1,180 snaps on defense in the regular season and playoffs, plus another 158 for special teams. Jenkins was one of only three NFL players who were on the field for all of his team's defensive snaps in 2018.
"He does a great job of taking care of himself and finding ways to keep himself young in this business," safeties coach Tim Hauck said. "When you get a little bit older, it's hard to do that. It's hard to get yourself ready every single week because it takes a little bit longer to recover from the week before. I think he does all the right things off the field also to get himself prepared.
"He grinds. There's not a lot of guys who put in the time and the hours that he does. It's hard for a player because they get tired. And then they're mentally off and they want to get away from it. He does not. He spends a lot of time in this building. It's just a work ethic. It's a grind mentality that I'm going to find something that's going to be a difference-maker. He does it week in and week out."
Jenkins posted a career-high 136 tackles in 2018. No other Eagles defensive player had more than 97. His three forced fumbles were also a personal best and he had at least 10 tackles for loss for the third time in the past four seasons.
As impressive as his stats were, his leadership shined brightest as the secondary was ravaged by injury and the team had to overcome a 4-6 start to reach the postseason.
Jenkins' tag-team partner at safety, Rodney McLeod, was lost for the season in Week 3 due to a knee injury. Two games later, Jenkins lined up alongside a rookie in Avonte Maddox, who never played safety in college and was battling for the nickel cornerback job in Training Camp.
Maddox thrived but was needed to play the slot when Sidney Jones got hurt. The Eagles then lost both starting outside corners in Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills so Maddox finished the season there along with Rasul Douglas. Corey Graham started at safety in the second half of the season, while Tre Sullivan played extensive reps for the first time in his career. Midseason waiver-wire pickup Cre'Von LeBlanc turned out to be a gem of a find in the slot.
Through all of the chaos, Jenkins helped coach up the young players in the meeting room and on the field while maintaining his high level of performance.
"That's a hard thing because if you start worrying about somebody else, then you're going to create more problems for yourself," Hauck said. "But he's such a smart guy football-wise. He understands the scheme and knowing where those guys are going to fit, so I don't think is an overwhelming thing for him because he already understands that."
"You just stick with your process. Nothing changes. Those guys have got to get ready and I've got to get ready too. I'm not above preparation and playing the game before I get there," Jenkins said. "There's a routine I go through to make sure that I'm prepared for any and every situation that comes knowing that having that stability is going to be a bigger emphasis with guys that have less experience. So, I think that puts more on myself to feel prepared not only for my job but being able to adjust in games and having an answer to some of the challenges we might face.
"It's a week-long thing. A routine I keep pretty consistent each week. I learned it in my rookie year in New Orleans. Around Gregg Williams, Jon Vilma, Roman Harper, Drew Brees, all these guys I saw how they prepared and how, when it got to games, often times they knew what was coming, knew what the adjustment would be because they prepared unbelievably. So those are just habits I picked up by watching great leaders."
As one of the respected leaders in the Eagles' locker room, Jenkins' voice carries a lot of weight. Following the team's Week 11 loss in New Orleans, Jenkins spoke publicly about his unhappiness with the team's demeanor and lack of fight in that defeat. The Eagles rallied to win five of their final six games to get into the playoffs and advanced to the Divisional Round.
"The challenge was not really directed at the team but more so at the leaders and myself included being the ones to set the pace and the tempo," Jenkins said. "And we talked about accountability. Well, that’s going to come from the top. Being leaders and guys in front of the room, one, we have to be holding ourselves accountable and making sure we are the standard and then two, we’re making that point clear to the team.
"We're not a front-running group. I think we're a prideful group, which is one of the reasons we've been able to even keep it together because you got guys that actually care about what we're doing, that care about each other, that care about what they put out on the field, and take pride in their preparation, pride in the way they go in and compete. That's from the top down – the owner, the coaches, the players. I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to turn it around."
Jenkins said that his personal goal when he started his NFL career was to play for 10 seasons. With a successful decade under his belt, Jenkins has "put a lot of miles on this car" but doesn't have any intention of calling it quits anytime soon.
"For me, as long as my health is good, as long as I'm still having fun, and my passion's there, then I'll keep doing it. And all of which are intact, so still going," Jenkins said.
In fact, he can't wait to come back next season to see the progress made by all of the young players who were forced into significant roles due to the injuries this year.
"I'm just excited to see where they go with their careers. A lot of those guys have now put things on tape that'll give them opportunities if not here, somewhere else," Jenkins said. "I'm proud to be a part of that cause I've seen a lot of guys get thrown into a situation they've been thrown into and fold. They fought through it and rose through it and got better, so I'm excited to see the trajectory of their careers, where that goes and obviously work with them next year."