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NOTEBOOK: Jenkins Making Waves; Other Notes

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Fourth quarter performance against New England was critical.



Jelani Jenkins was one of three Florida Gators taken in April’s NFL Draft along with running back Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis, and his quiet demeanor has allowed him to stay under the radar – until last week that is.

In addition to the contributions he has made on special teams, Jenkins took on a more expanded role on defense in last week’s dramatic 24-20 win over the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The fourth-round pick was in on 29 defensive snaps at linebacker, spelling starter Philip Wheeler in certain situations, including on the final drive of the game when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was trying to lead another game-winning scoring drive.

“He’s a bright kid,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s versatile. He understands the defense well. He’s picked up the system quickly. He’s very athletic. He’s got some good instincts in regards to pass coverage whether it is zone or man and how to dissect pass concepts on the move quickly. He’s done a good job. He’s done a good job in practice and did well in the game.”

Wheeler was busy taking on New England’s big and physical running back, Legarrette Blount, when the Patriots tried to establish the run in the first half. That was a demanding and draining task for Miami’s leading tackler and Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle saw how advantageous the fresh legs of Jenkins could be when New England went change of pace with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

By game’s end, Jenkins had two solo tackles but a handful of impact plays in pass coverage and forced Brady to have to go to his second and third reads in crucial situations. A performance like that against a team like the Patriots under those circumstances did wonders for Jenkins’ confidence and for the confidence Coyle and Philbin have in him.

“I’d say my confidence is really high,” said Jenkins, who has 15 tackles (13 solo) on the season. “Even though my role wasn’t great throughout the season I was still in every meeting, practicing on the field and I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with the defense every week. I think with experience being out there on the field it just made me even more confident and made me be able to relax a little bit more and get settled.”

Jenkins is just the latest example on the Dolphins of a player stepping up in an unfamiliar spot and delivering. He admitted that it felt good to hear his number called and he just stuck with the “next man up” mentality that the entire team has embraced.

Of course that’s easier said than done when you’re staring across the line of scrimmage at a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Brady and he’s already beaten the Dolphins once this season in come-from-behind fashion. Jenkins was able to temper his anxiety when it counted.

“There’s no time at all to thing about who that was across the way, I was just thinking we can’t let them score,” Jenkins said. “That’s the only thing that was going through my mind. Tom Brady’s a guy that I’ve looked up to and that I’ve watched take drives in that fourth quarter all the way down the field countless times. That was what was staring me in the face but you can’t really look at that, you’ve really just got to be in the moment and realize that you have to stop him in order to continue the season.”

This Sunday in Buffalo against the Bills, Jenkins and the Dolphins will be in another playoff-type atmosphere and Jenkins is eager to take on that next challenge.

“I’m confident in my ability and I think preparing the same way as I did last week and I did the weeks before will help me out,” he said. “(Bills running backs) C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both great runners and I’m going to have to prepare really hard for them. If my name is called I’m ready.”

THOMAS’ STAR CONTINUES TO RISE

One day after holding court in front of his locker and even stealing the show from Mike Wallace during his media session, new defensive back Michael Thomas was the talk of the locker room again today. Thomas was basking in the glow of being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his game-saving performance against the Patriots, when he intercepted Brady in the end zone with two seconds left after breaking up a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. So he got to answer more questions about his rising celebrity status.

“I found out from my college roommate in between meetings that I won the award and soon after he texted me Richard Sherman texted me,” Thomas said. “And that’s just amazing that we both got the honor the same week coming from Stanford, just trying to show that players from Stanford can play on this level.

“You can’t draw it up like this but I’ve been working hard for this opportunity and when you dream you dream big. So I’ve been working for it so I could be prepared whenever I got my opportunity and it came, I thank God that I was able to make those plays that I did. I feel blessed and now I just want to build from it. So many people go from practice squad to being activated to the 53 to contributing and making a career out of it and I’m just the next story.”

THIS AND THAT

Offensive lineman Nate Garner returned to practice after missing Tuesday’s session and was working hard with the rest of the offensive line. … Blue skies and pleasant temperatures enticed the team to practice outside in conditions that are not likely to be duplicated Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

WEDNESDAY MELODIES

There was only enough time for two songs to be played outside today during the team’s warm-up and stretching period and they both had intriguing angles. George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ 1980s classic, “Bad To The Bone” kicked things off in an ode to how the Dolphins are feeling about themselves right now. Yo Gotti closed out the set with “LeBron James.”

THE LAST WORD

“We want to play a better first six minutes of the football game than we did when they came down here and then we want to finish. We were in a position to make some plays at the end of the game and we didn’t make them, so those are the things that we’re going to try to do better this week.” – right tackle Tyson Clabo on what the Dolphins learned from their first meeting with the Bills on October 20th
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