This article was originally published by The NY Daily News, Written Credit: PAT LEONARD
NFL receivers once faced banishment to Revis Island in New York. Now, they suffer an equally ignominious fate: Disappearing down the Rabbit Hole.
The Giants’ Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins may be the best cover corner in the league. He is certainly having one of the best 2016 seasons of any NFL defensive back.
It has to be a pleasant sight for John Mara and Jerry Reese. They are paying Jenkins ($16 million) the second-most in “total cash” for the 2016 season of all NFL corners. The priciest is Revis, at $17 million, per spotrac.com. (No, the Jets’ season can’t go much worse.)
Jenkins’ lights-out Sunday night shutdown of the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant was a reminder of Revis’ dominant reign at MetLife Stadium when star wideouts frequently faded into anonymity.
“I’m at a loss for words,” an overwhelmed Bryant said, shielding his eyes from the light as he climbed out of the Rabbit Hole, where he spent the entire Giants’ 10-7 win.
Jenkins was targeted eight times by Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott on 41 snaps in coverage, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed two catches for 17 yards, intercepted one, blanketed Bryant while Leon Hall picked off another, and forced a Bryant fumble on the Dallas receiver’s only catch on nine targets his way. He was credited with two passes defended.
Jenkins gave up a passer rating of 0.0 when targeted, which Pro Football Focus said is “39.6 points worse than just throwing the ball into the dirt every snap.” His diving swat of Prescott’s low pass to Bryant on 4th-and-10, originally ruled complete, led to a reverse on replay review and ended the game.
“Janoris, he was all over the field,” said coach Ben McAdoo, who doesn’t often boast. “That was a great play at the end of the ball game, getting his hand on the ball, having that thing come out. But he was all over the field tonight, like a lot of guys on defense.”
Jenkins has toned down some of his bravado since his Twitter outburst after a Week 12 win in Cleveland, when he ripped Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor as a “s–teater” for Pryor’s trash-talk during a six-catch, 131-yard performance against a varying coverages and assignments.
He had called out Washington’s Josh Norman in September for not following Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown around the field, saying: “When you’re paying somebody 70 mil, there shouldn’t be no game plan. The game plan should, ‘You’re on this guy,’ and that’s what it is.”
The easy-going corner — who corrected NBC’s Michelle Tafoya twice to call him Jackrabbit and not Janoris during Sunday night’s postgame — kept it all about the team.
“We can be as special as we want to be,” Jenkins said of the Giants’ lofty aspirations. “(The win) was big. A lot of talk out there (from Giant doubters) … We did what we needed to do.”
Jenkins, a product of Florida and North Alabama, chased rabbits growing up as a kid and got his nickname as a freshman playing for the Gators.
The name fits. Jenkins is tireless, athletic and constantly contesting passes his way.
In the Giants’ two wins over the Cowboys this season, Bryant finished with two total catches for 18 yards covered primarily by Jenkins. In Week 13 in Pittsburgh, Jenkins turned in an eye-opening performance matched up against one of the NFL’s best wideouts, Antonio Brown.
Brown had six catches for 54 yards and touchdown, but two of his catches — including his touchdown in the back of the end-zone and a tough snag on the left sideline — were toe-tappers made with Jenkins draped all over him. He stayed with Brown on the TD despite Ben Roethlisberger having all kinds of time, and Leon Hall’s misread in the end zone was the only reason really that the pass wasn’t picked off.
Jenkins was prone to surrender deep completions earlier this season, which had been a criticism of his talents in four prior NFL seasons with the then-St. Louis Rams. But even when he was beaten deep, he would bounce back the next play or the next series to shut his man down. He has dropped several interception opportunities, but that only highlights how frequently he is making a play on the ball in pass coverage.
There are fewer tasks more difficult to accomplish consistently on an NFL field, especially when Jenkins often is following the opposition’s best receiver week-in and week-out.
Jenkins’ five-year, $62.5 million blockbuster free agent contract is the sixth-highest among NFL DBs behind Washington’s Josh Norman ($75 million), Revis ($70.1 million), Arizona’s Patrick Peterson ($70.05 million), Cleveland’s Joe Haden ($67.5 million) and Miami’s Byron Maxwell ($63 million).
He is second in the NFL since 2012 with five interception returns for touchdowns to only Aquib Talib (six). He scored in Week 2 this season on a 65-yard blocked field goal return scamper in a 16-13 win over the Saints. Pro Football Focus voted Jenkins its top performer of Week 14 across the NFL.
Jenkins faced the question earlier this season of whether he considers himself one of the best in the league:
“I consider myself a cornerback,” he said. “I let ya’ll do the rankings. I just play football. I’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s about time I’m getting recognition, but … I’m just here to play football.”
Throw at the Rabbit at your own risk.
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