Saints' John Jenkins drops nearly 40 pounds since OTAs

New Orleans Saints nose tackle John Jenkins showed up to training camp as a shell of his former self.

Well, not really. He still weighs about 328-329 pounds. But the third-year pro said he shed about 35-40 pounds this summer after talking with veteran teammates and deciding he would feel -- and play -- much better at the lower weight.

“I just felt like, after talking to a lot of veteran guys, ones that have been here like (newly-signed six-time Pro Bowler Kevin Williams and former Saints veteran Brodrick Bunkley) that once you lose weight, you feel great about yourself, you'll be able to play longer, and it's healthier. Just plain and simple it’s healthier,” said Jenkins, who said his main focus was dieting and drinking a lot more water instead of juice.

“I’d rather eat my calories than drink my calories,” said Jenkins, who insisted he hasn’t been tempted to cheat too much. “It becomes a habit. Once you see the results of doing the right things, it becomes a habit.”

It remains to be seen how the results will translate onto the field for Jenkins, who said he played at 345 pounds last year during an “up and down” season and played even heavier in college at Georgia.

Jenkins said he feels like he’s coming off the ball quicker, which is obviously a big plus. And he doesn’t feel like he has sacrificed any strength or power.

“Last time I recall, I was still putting up a healthy amount of weight, so I’m good,” Jenkins said with a smile.

But he also recognizes that weight is only a small part of the equation. For big men in the middle, “everything is technique, leverage,” Jenkins said.

“If my facemask is lower than the guy I’m going against, I’m good,” said Jenkins, whose performance was ordinary, at best, in New Orleans’ preseason opener at Baltimore last Thursday night.

Jenkins didn’t get blown up at the line, but he also didn’t get much push up front as the Ravens wore down the Saints’ front with a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive before the starters called it a night.

"Me personally, I feel like I needed to be more of an impact in the run game,” Jenkins said of his takeaway from the game. “I pride myself on stopping the run. That's what I love, and I enjoy doing it. For me personally, I feel like I need to be more of a factor in that aspect.”

Jenkins has also had his hands full in practice, especially in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, with new Saints center Max Unger, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Seattle Seahawks. But Jenkins said going up against a top center every day in camp will only make him better.

Jenkins is a big X-factor for the Saints this year, especially after they decided to release Bunkley because of injury issues on the eve of camp. The two split time in years past, but the Saints need Jenkins to lock down the starting job now.

Jenkins has shown flashes of great potential at times. But he was inconsistent last year after missing the entire summer with a torn pectoral muscle.

"It was an up and down season for me," Jenkins said. "That was the first significant injury of my career, so that was really different. You just take that, try to get better and learn from it."

Now healthy, he’s determined to make that Year 2 leap that so many young players talk about in Year 3.