EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Before the St. Louis Rams report for training camp next week, we're taking a look at five players returning to the team who will need to provide more if the team is going to be a playoff contender in 2015.
We continue with cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Why more is needed: Jenkins has established himself as the team's top cornerback and, strange as it might seem, is actually the secondary's most experienced starter as he heads into his fourth season. In his first three seasons, Jenkins has been alternately brilliant and maddening with his ability to make game-changing plays and his knack for giving them up. In some ways, asking Jenkins to change his style would limit his chances of coming up with big plays. But in looking at the Rams defense, perhaps the biggest question entering the season is whether the secondary can limit the home run plays it consistently allowed in 2014. Since Jenkins is the de facto leader of that group and a sure thing to start at one cornerback spot, it starts with him and trickles down from there. There's plenty of incentive for Jenkins to offer more consistency too. He's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Rams are believed to have some interest in re-signing him to a long-term deal. If it doesn't happen before the season, Jenkins could make himself a bit more money by taking his game to the next level and cutting down on mistakes.
What the Rams need from him: Coach Jeff Fisher has said time and again that he doesn't want to ask Jenkins to completely alter his approach. While some of Jenkins' gambles have led to touchdowns for the opponent, others have led to touchdowns for himself. It's why Jenkins has six interception returns for touchdowns since 2012, most in the league. That's the trade off that comes with a player of Jenkins' confidence and mentality. It's unfair to criticize Jenkins for all of the touchdowns he allows as that simply comes with the job description of the position. Where the Rams need him to be better is to simply cut down on the backbreaking mistakes like Brandon Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown before the half of last year's Monday night game against San Francisco. If he can minimize those errors while still making the occasional game-turning play, the Rams likely would be happy to pay him to keep him in the fold.
Outlook: Three years into his career, Jenkins hasn't quite reached the stage where he just is what he is. Jenkins' reputation as a risk-taker probably won't go away but again, he's had some positive results from taking those chances. Now it's all about understanding when it's OK to roll the dice a bit and when to play it safe. Jenkins earned Pro Bowl alternate status last year and looked particularly sharp in organized team activities. If ever he is to have the type of year that will take him from Pro Bowl alternate to actual Pro Bowler, it makes sense that this will be the season, before he heads into free agency.