Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams were reminded of why Janoris Jenkins carried a high risk in the draft.
On Sunday, the rookie got back to reminding them why he brings a high reward.
Jenkins became the first rookie since 1960 with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns in the same game as the Rams beat the Cardinals, 31-17.
Jenkins and fellow rookie Chris Givens were made inactive for the game against San Francisco on Nov. 11 for violating team rules. However, Jenkins took back two pick-sixes — one of 36 yards and the other 39 — to lift St. Louis to a win on Sunday.
It’s a feat accomplished by only three other rookies in NFL history: Bobby Franklin of the Cleveland Browns in 1960, Dan Sandifer of the Washington Redskins in 1948 and Hoot Flanagan of the Pottsville Maroons in 1925.
His performance drew praise from a former six-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
“He’s a really feisty cornerback, learning a lot from Cortland Finnegan back there,” said Eric Allen, now an analyst with ESPN. “He’s the kind of guy that can play both off and up coverage, which you love. You love his versatility in that. He has extreme confidence in his ability, able to play the ball in the air, and we saw that (Sunday) just squashing drive after drive.”
Though Jenkins gives the Rams reason to worry off the field, he continues to give other teams plenty of concerns on the field. That’s the reason why Jeff Fisher, in his 18th season as a head coach and first with the Rams, saw something special in Jenkins when he gambled on him with the 39th overall pick in April’s draft.
“Jeff Fisher’s been around this league a long time,” Allen said. “He’s seen a lot of great cover guys, and he thinks Jenkins can be one of those guys.”
Both of Jenkins’ interceptions on Sunday came at opportune times for St. Louis.
On the first play of the second quarter with the Rams down 7-0, Jenkins — on his back foot at the time the ball was thrown — pounced on rookie QB Ryan Lindley’s pass to intended receiver LaRod Stephens-Howling and ran untouched 36 yards to the end zone to tie the game.
The second one came in the third quarter with the Rams holding on to a 21-17 lead. Lindley badley underthrew receiver Larry Fitzgerald by 10 yards, and Jenkins turned around and put on the breaks to easily reel it in. He sprinted 39 yards to the house and was barely challenged down the sideline as he high-stepped into the end zone while looking directly at Lindley.
Before Jenkins’ big day, the Rams had gotten themselves in the history books for the wrong reason as they carried an NFL record-long streak of five straight games without causing a turnover.