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Janoris Jenkins turning heads with shutdown play

Posted Dec 13, 2016

Janoris Jenkins held Dez Bryant to one catch in the Giants' Week 14 win over the Cowboys: 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Janoris Jenkins has been an outstanding cornerback for a long time. He was an All-America corner at Pahokee (Fla.) High School. Eight years ago, Jenkins started as a true freshman on a University of Florida team that was 13-1 and won the BCS national championship. He was a standout on St. Louis Rams' teams that won a total of 27 games in four years.

But it took coming to the Giants for anyone to notice how good Jenkins really is.

That was evident again on Sunday night, when Jenkins – or Jackrabbit, as everyone calls him, and he prefers – shadowed Dallas’ Dez Bryant and held the two-time Pro Bowl receiver to one 10-yard catch in the Giants’ 10-7 victory. And that ended poorly for Bryant, because Jenkins forced him to fumble and the ball was recovered by safety Landon Collins with 2:13 remaining.

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It was the second time this season Bryant caught just one ball against Jenkins and the Giants. Jenkins also had an interception and knocked away another pass.

So, is this the best Jenkins has ever played?

“So far, I think so,” Jenkins said today. “But I feel like I had been doing it in St. Louis, but St. Louis is St. Louis. I am just glad to be here in New York where the lights shine bright and everybody gets to see you.”

It’s likely that Jenkins is getting a longer look by NFL media and fans, as well as his peers, because the 9-4 Giants are playing big games in December. They host the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions, also 9-4, in their final home game on Sunday. Jenkins is enjoying his first playoff chase.

“It feels good,” he said. “It gives you a chip on your shoulder to make you come and play even harder and just strive in the moment.”

But Jenkins, who is playing on a winning team for the first time in his career, can’t say if playing in high-profile games has increased his exposure – for a very good reason.

“Honestly, I don’t know because I have never been in this situation,” he said. “But the longer you play, the more eyes you get and you just have to stay focused and continue to play.”

The players, who filled out their Pro Bowl ballots today, must notice that Jenkins is a shutdown corner who can make a game a miserable exercise for any receiver.

“I mean, they know,” Jenkins said. “I am sure they know. They have known, it is just who put it out there and how they put it out there. Like I said, just continue to play football and don’t worry about who is number one, who is number five, who is number 25. Just play Jackrabbit football.

“(Making the Pro Bowl) would mean a lot, but I am not trying to make it to the Pro Bowl. I am trying to make it somewhere else. It would be special, though.”

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That somewhere else is the postseason. Although the final three games will decide the Giants’ fate, Jenkins knows that being on the verge of clinching a postseason berth at 9-4 is a “big difference” than playing out the string at 4-9.

“When you are 9-4, you have something to lose,” Jenkins said, “and when you are 4-9, you don’t. You take a lot of chances and you need a lot of plays. Here, you can just play within the scheme, play for your teammates, and hopefully bring the energy.”

The entire defense has done just that. The Cowboys entered the game Sunday with an 11-game winning streak and with an offense that was ranked fourth in the NFL in yards-per-game and fifth in scoring. They left with seven points, 260 yards, 13 first downs, and one successful third-down conversion in 15 tries.

“I have been saying it since I got here, we can be as special as we want to be.” Jenkins said. “We just have to continue to come out and work and play within the defense.

“There is always room for improvement. I think we can get a lot better just as far as small things, such as giving up a couple plays here, a couple plays there and just keep improving, man.”

If they do, the Giants are going to be a tough out for any team for the rest of the season.