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Janoris Jenkins primed to bring Jackrabbit skills to NY

Posted Mar 11, 2016

Nicknamed Jackrabbit, CB Janoris Jenkins signed with the Giants this week


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Janoris Jenkins has an uncommon first name, but he prefers to be addressed by another moniker, Jackrabbit, which has its roots in where he’s from (Pahokee, on the shore of Lake Okeechobee in Florida) and what he does (plays cornerback instinctively and fearlessly).

So how exactly did he get that handle?

“When I first got to (the University of) Florida, my position coach, Vance Bedford, just threw me out there,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, no clue of the plays. I was just moving fast, making plays. He just busted out, ‘Jackrabbit.’ Ever since that day, I stuck with the name Jackrabbit. Me being from Pahokee, the muck - where I come from, all we do is chase rabbits; chase rabbits to make money; chase rabbits to play running back or cornerback. I just carried it on as much as possible, because I know people know who I am. But I want people to know where I’m really from, and how different it is from other areas around the world.”

This year, Jackrabbit will be hopping around in the Giants’ secondary. He signed on this week, along with defensive end Olivier Vernon and tackle Damon Harrison, as part of the free agent haul the team expects to upgrade a defense that endured a difficult 2015 season.

Jenkins, who played four seasons for the St. Louis Rams, and two-time Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie give the Giants a cornerback tandem that will constantly challenge opposing receivers.

“I know he’s been in the game a long time,” Jenkins said. “He’s made enough plays, he’s experienced. I’m just looking forward to playing next to him. I’ve heard a lot of things about him.”

Jackrabbit and DRC share a knack for scoring touchdowns. Jenkins tallied six in his first four seasons, five on interception returns and another on a fumble return. Rodgers-Cromartie scored two last season – one each on an interception and a fumble return – and has seven career touchdowns (six on interception returns), the fourth-highest total among active defensive players. Thirteen combined scores is an impressive total for a cornerback duo.

How does Jenkins do it?

“I think it’s just an instinct and just playing the game without being scared,” he said. “You got corners out there that play the game being scared. They’re scared to jump routes, scared to make plays. In this league you’re going to get beat. You’re going to make plays. When you make your plays, make the most plays you can possibly make instead of ending up getting beat all the time, or playing passive because you don’t want to get beat. That’s not a lockdown, shutdown, confident corner. That is somebody that’s just out there just doing his job. If coach says, ‘Go to point A, go to point B,’ he’s going from point A to point B. If coach tells me to do my job, I’m going to point A, point B, then to point C. I’m trying to go over what the coach is telling me to do, but I’m going to do it within a system. I’m just not going to go out there and freelance, do my own thing. Everything is going to be within the system and the scheme of the football team.”

Jenkins was thrilled to join the Giants, whose secondary/cornerbacks coach, Tim Walton, was his defensive coordinator in St. Louis in 2013. He was even happier when he learned Vernon and Harrison were joining him.

“To be honest, my joy went from probably 100 to 1,000, like, immediately,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Okay, we’re getting some people in now.’ Those guys are going to help us out a lot. That’s what the New York Giants brought us here for, to come in and make plays and help the organization out.

“Playing in the NFL is not easy. Every team isn’t going to have that great defense, that great corner, that great linebacker. It’s just about having team chemistry. That’s the key. If you have team chemistry and everybody is playing for each other, it will turn out a whole lot different.”

The Giants expect to have a vastly improved defense this year. But that’s just one reason Jenkins likes his new situation. The other is that he believes a lot of people will be watching this team improve.

“I like, ‘I’m on TV more,’” he said. “People get to see my talent. The opportunity of winning games, and being around people that are all about winning. Just being in the atmosphere in a big city, the fan support. The media is something I didn’t have in St. Louis, so now I have an opportunity to do what I got to do, make plays, and win.”