WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) - Saints coaches don't sound too concerned about all the offseason practices second-year nose tackle John Jenkins' missed while rehabilitating an injured muscle in his chest.
When Jenkins finally made his way back to the practice field on a limited basis last week, he looked leaner and fresher than he has been since entering the NFL. Because he was still able to use his legs for conditioning work during rehab, he has gotten his weight down to about 347 pounds, 20 pounds less than his weight in his final college season at Georgia. The muscle he injured in the weight room last spring no longer bothers him, and he expects to be taking on double-teams at the line of scrimmage sooner than later.
"I feel good. I mean, do I look good out there? Y'all watching," the 6-foot-3 Jenkins said with a smile. "Being a big guy and losing more weight, it doesn't hurt me. It'll only make me get better."
As a rookie last season, Jenkins validated the Saints' decision to select him with an additional third-round draft pick which New Orleans acquired through a trade. He played in every game, helping collapse the pocket while edge pass-rushers Camron Jordan (12 1/2 sacks) and Junior Galette (12 sacks) both had the best seasons of their young careers. Jenkins even got his first-career sack during a playoff game at Seattle.
"He's a block eater. He eats up a couple blocks, which frees somebody to go," defensive line coach Bill Johnson said. "He's a guy that lines up right. And what really was surprising, he's a pretty good athlete for a big guy. And another thing that we found that he had a lot more stamina than you think these big guys had."
Johnson added that while he would have preferred to have Jenkins available to refine his technique during offseason practices, injury setbacks are "part of this business, and we'll catch up as we move forward." While Jenkins does not appear likely to start ahead of either Brodrick Bunkley or Akiem Hicks, he is expected to be part of the regular rotation on the interior of the defensive line.
As a rookie he was credited with 21 tackles, including two for losses. He was also credited with a pair of quarterback hurries but no sacks in the regular season.
While he'd like to improve his statistics, particularly his sack total, he said he understands that his effectiveness us judged less by statistics than by film review, which should show him occupying multiple blockers - and on passing downs moving the pocket - so his teammates get a clean path to the ball carrier or passer.
"My role in this defense is to free the linebackers up, take on as many blocks as I can and crush the pocket," Jenkins said. "A lot of things I do is taken for granted, people don't understand the job that I have to do. But at the end of the day, as long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and the stats as far as rushing yards and pressure against the quarterback and stuff like that shows up, then I'm happy."
NOTES: The Saints, who play their second preseason game at home Friday night against Tennessee, held their final practices of the West Virginia portion of training camp on Wednesday. They leave The Greenbrier resort on Thursday and return to their New Orleans headquarters, where they'll remain for the rest of the season. ___
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