PHOTO GALLERY: JENKINS SIGNS CONTRACT EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** When Cullen Jenkins left Central Michigan University in 2003, NFL teams didn't exactly clamor for his services.
"When I came out they told me I was too slow for end and too small for tackle," Jenkins said.
Well, "they" were wrong. Jenkins has had an outstanding career and today he joined the Giants, for whom he will add productivity, experience and durability on the defensive line. Jenkins started every game the previous two seasons for NFC East rival Philadelphia.
Jenkins, who played on the Green Bay Packers' 2010 Super Bowl XLV championship team, was released by the Eagles on Feb. 25. He is expected to fill the opening at defensive tackle created when starter Chris Canty was released last month. The team's other tackles include starter Linval Joseph, plus veteran Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn, who played well in brief action as a rookie last season before tearing a knee ligament.
"I'm excited," said Jenkins, who visited five teams after being let go by Philadelphia. "It's been a tough two weeks, going through so many different things mentally, with my family and traveling so much – trying to figure out which was the best scenario. I'm glad that it's over and especially with the Giants. This was my first visit and I had a good feeling here, especially talking with the coaches. Everybody was straight up, straight forward with me. I had a good gut feeling about New York."
As the Giants do with him. The Giants have faced Jenkins seven times in his career, including four times in the last two seasons.
"We are very pleased to add a player of Cullen's caliber to our defensive line," general manager Jerry Rese said. "He brings the physical nature that we like and also gives us a lot of flexibility up front."
"We're very excited to have him here," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He has earned the respect of our players, having played against us when he was in Green Bay and against us when he was in Philadelphia. He's a very versatile performer. He can play inside and outside. The challenge first and foremost is to stop the run and he's well aware of that – I've spoken to him about it. He also demonstrated outstanding pass rush ability, whether you play him inside or outside. He's a very versatile player that can play in all circumstances and situations. He's athletic, he's quick, he's powerful, he plays with good effort. We're looking forward to having him in a Giant uniform."
The Giants have made improving their defense a priority this offseason. In 2012, they finished 31st in total defense (383.4 yards a game) and 25th vs. the run (129.1). The Giants believe Jenkins can help them improve those numbers.
Jenkins, 6-2 and 305 pounds, is entering his 10th NFL season after playing seven seasons with the Packers and two with the Eagles. He has played in 125 regular-season games with 98 starts. His career totals include 260 tackles (184 solo), 38.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He ranks fourth among NFL defensive tackles with 21.0 sacks since 2009 and 16.5 since 2010. Jenkins has also played in eight postseason games with three starts and has 17 tackles (13 solo) and 2.0 sacks.
He and many of his new teammates have won Super Bowl rings and he believes all of them are motivated to add to their jewelry collection.
"Especially in this market, where they're not going to settle for anything less," Jenkins said. "They had a taste of it two times in five years and the fans expect it. It's not going to come just because you have a team with good players. It has to be something you earn. It's going to take a lot of work, especially on my part, to come in and make sure I'm fitting in with the team. I have to be willing to do whatever they ask of me and help out the best I can."
In 2012, Jenkins started all 16 games for the Eagles and was credited with 51 tackles (28 solo) and 4.0 sacks. He tied a career high with seven tackles (five solo) vs. the Giants on Sept. 30 in Philadelphia.
Jenkins joined the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2003 from Central Michigan. He didn't make the team that season but the following year, after an impressive NFL Europe season, he earned a roster spot in training camp.
Jenkins played in every game in his first two and three of his first four seasons. On Dec. 17, 2006, Jenkins had 3.0 sacks in a victory over Detroit. He was limited to four games in 2008 because of a torn pectoral muscle, but returned the following season to start all 16 games for the first time (at defensive end, after the Packers switched to a 3-4 defense).
In 2010, Jenkins played in 11 regular-season games with eight starts and had a career-high 7.0 sacks as the Packers won the NFL title.
Following that season, Jenkins joined the Eagles as a free agent. In two seasons in Philadelphia, Jenkins started every game and had 66 tackles (54 solo) and 9.5 sacks. The Eagles are rumored to be switching to a 3-4 defense under new coach Chip Kelly and released Cullen and fellow tackle Mike Patterson this week.
Jenkins, 32, was born in Detroit and grew up in Belleville, Mich. He is the younger brother of Kris Jenkins, the former Carolina Panthers and Jets defensive tackle.
"When you're not drafted, that underdog mentality stays with you," he said. "It always stays with me. Anytime you go through the experience I just went through – when you're told by a team they don't want you any more, it's a big motivating factor. I'm always out to show I'm a heck of a player, I'm a good player. I'm going to work my butt off to prove that to myself and to everyone else."