NFC South top 25: No. 20

We continue our series on my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 20:

Malcolm Jenkins, safety, New Orleans

What he did in 2011: In his third season, Jenkins continued to show flashes of what continues to be unrealized potential. For the first time in his career, he didn’t produce a single interception. He looked good in coverage at times and is one of the league’s smarter safeties. But Jenkins didn’t really blossom the way many expected after a promising first season at free safety (he played cornerback as a rookie) in 2010. The Saints weren’t very good on defense and gave up way too many big plays. Jenkins was far from the biggest problem, but there’s no question he was part of the problem.

Why he’s No. 20 in 2012: I expect a big step forward by Jenkins as he gets settled into the scheme being installed by new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Jenkins may be better suited to Spagnuolo’s defense than he was in what the Saints ran under Gregg Williams. With Spagnuolo, Jenkins will get a chance to be a true center fielder. In Williams’ scheme, defensive backs frequently were asked to blitz. Spagnuolo prefers that the front four takes care of the pass rush. That should allow Jenkins to sit back and look for quarterback mistakes. In that setting, I see Jenkins coming up with a lot more interceptions.