The Gateway Arch in St. Louis has come to symbolize many things. Among them, the monument in the sports-savvy city accurately depicts the rise, peak and fall of any athlete’s career.
The ascent just as steep as its descent.
That rings especially true for the Rams’ high-risk, high-reward rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins. But so far, the team’s second-round pick has earned nothing but notable praise from his coaches, teammates and analysts.
After just three days of camp, Jenkins began practicing with the first team this week and looks like a lock to start at left corner opposite of seventh-year man Cortland Finnegan.
“He’s got excellent football intelligence and he carries things from the classroom to the field,” said head coach Jeff Fisher. “He’s going to be a really good player really soon for us.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter only needed to see Jenkins at training camp for a week before saying he resembled a future Pro Bowl player. The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder, who excels in man-to-man coverage, has always been described by scouts as having a mix of instincts and quickness that is only found in the NFL’s top cornerbacks.
His ball-hawking abilities have also gotten the attention of the Rams’ 10-year veteran safety Quintin Mikell.
“He is a young guy who is coming in with a lot of confidence. He has come in and made a lot of plays already,” Mikell told ESPN.com. “I can see it coming. He’s going to have a good year. They’re going to test him and he might have a little bit of struggles here or there, but he has a lot of confidence and is a guy who can make plays.”
The struggles will undoubtedly come with the Rams’ secondary facing some of the league’s best quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. However, St. Louis will also need Jenkins’ exceptional tackling at the position to improve a defense that ranked 31st against the run last year. The Rams were pounded for 152.1 yards a game on the ground, second only to the Buccaneers’ 156.1.
But more than anything, the team will need the former Gator who was dismissed from UF before playing a year at North Alabama to stay out of trouble.
That may be the reason why the Rams were hesitant to sign Jenkins to a deal until after the worrisome vacation time between minicamp and training camp had come and gone. His four-year, $5 million contract was agreed to on July 24, the same day fellow rookie corner Trumaine Johnson — also carrying off-the-field luggage — was also inked.
During the Rams’ negotiations with Jenkins, there was also a dispute over the team choosing their own recommended financial advisor for Jenkins, which would have violated the collective bargaining agreement had they gone through with it.
Although Jenkins has proven to be a questionable investment, he’s also proven to be a star in the making. The $3.1 million that Jenkins received in guaranteed money is the highest percentage increase for any second-round selection this year over 2011 second-rounders.
His talent has put him somewhere on the upside of that arch, capable of rounding the learning curve.
That’s unless he doesn’t see the potential for a downward spiral.