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Film room: John Jenkins makes an impact in Indianapolis despite questionable grade

Diving into why the defensive tackle had so many tackles but still earned a below-average grade from PFF

Las Vegas Raiders v Indianapolis Colts
John Jenkins
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

One standout for the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 17 against the Indianapolis Colts was defensive tackle John Jenkins.

Jenkins finished the game second on the team in total tackles with seven which is pretty impressive for an interior defensive lineman. And those weren’t just stat-padding takedowns that were made several yards down the field as Pro Football Focus credited him with four defensive stops—tackles that result in a “failure” for the offense. That figure is tied for the most at his position for the week and he had a 1.6-yard average depth of tackle.

However, PFF gave the veteran run-stuffer a below-average 53.2 grade against the run which is clearly very head-scratching. So, is this a situation where his production is misleading, or the mark is simply too low?

Let’s dive into the tape and see for ourselves.

Here, Jenkins is responsible for the weakside A-gap against this mid-zone run but gets reached on the scoop block with the center—Ryan Kelly—getting to Jenkins’ outside shoulder. That creates a rushing lane, however, Nate Hobbs reads it and crashes downhill before the wide receiver can block him which is why the running back cuts inside.

Jenkins gets a little lucky here because Hobbs forces the cutback, but this would be a negative play for Jenkins since he gets wheeled out of his gap.

This is the same play call, mid-zone, just from a slightly different formation. Jenkins is ready for it this time and once he recognizes the blocking scheme, he attacks the center and uses his strength to reset the line of scrimmage. He effectively closes the gap with the center and then gets off the block to make the tackle right at the line of scrimmage for a defensive stop.

The Colts run power which puts the left guard—Quenton Nelson—on a down block against Jenkins, who is lined up at nose. Jenkins does another good job of shifting his eyes and hands to take on the block and get some extension from Nelson.

To finish, the defense tackle escapes and since Robert Spillane wins against the tight end, the rushing lane collapses and Jenkins can make another tackle right at the line of scrimmage. That’s great team defense.

This rep is similar to the negative clip we took a look at earlier, but it’s a similar issue where Jenkins is taking on a combo block and lets the center get to his outside shoulder. Also, he ends up getting displaced about three or four yards which is just too much ground to concede, especially for a guy who is in the game for his run defense.

Here, Indianapolis runs an outside toss with a pin-and-pull concept. That means Nelson is going to be responsible for reaching Jenkins and the defensive tackle should have an advantage with his pre-snap alignment since he’s outside shade of the guard.

However, Nelson has a great get-off and reaches Jenkins which helps create an outside rushing lane for Jonathan Taylor. Also, Tyree Wilson getting pinned inside by a wide receiver doesn’t help matters.

The trend here is that Jenkins was struggling against outside runs and was letting offensive linemen get to his outside shoulder far too often.

Now we’ll get a look at Jenkins’ bread and butter as he is very good against inside runs.

He’s lined up right over the center and is going to be two-gapping, meaning he’s responsible for each of the A-gaps. The Colts are running halfback dive where Taylor is essentially just trying to get downhill and pick up the third and one conversion.

Jenkins does get kicked inside by Nelson on the combo block, but since Jenkins did a good job of attacking Kelly, he’s able to recover and work back across Kelly’s face to get involved in the tackle and force the third down stop.

In fairness to Jenkins, trap runs are very tough for defensive tackles to defend because they’re so quick-hitting. Nelson also does a good job of faking the block to fool Jenkins and by the time Jenkins recognizes the play design, it’s too late as the tight end is a step away from him to make the block. That’s what opens up the inside rushing lane and allows Taylor to pick up the chunk gain on the ground.

Ideally, the defensive tackle works underneath the tight end and takes away the inside lane, forcing the running back to bounce outside. But again, this is a tough play to defend.

Indianapolis runs duo here and with Jenkins lined up as a 3-technique, the right tackle and guard are going to combo block on him. The best way for a defensive lineman to defeat that block is to attack the man he’s lined up across from, which Jenkins does by winning at the point of attack and controlling the guard.

From there, he’s able to get extension, reducing the inside rushing lane and allowing him to show color in the B-gap to force the running back to bounce outside. If Maxx Crosby stays more disciplined and doesn’t try to cheat inside, this would have been a one- or two-yard gain.

I’ll spare some of the details as Jenkins getting reached has been a common theme. It happens again here as the Colts run outside zone and Kelly is able to seal Jenkins, preventing the defensive tackle from working across his face.

This is probably the best example of Jenkins’ strength. Indianapolis calls another inside run and Jenkins wins at the point of attack and stands up the center to help plug up the gaps in the middle of the formation. Also, he ends up making the tackle right at the line of scrimmage with his left arm while his right arm is still occupied by the center.

We’ll end with another positive clip as the Colts run duo. Similar to what we saw before, he attacks the center and does a good job of absorbing contact from the guard to stay in his gap. Finally, Jenkins uses his strength to get off the block and make the tackle a yard or two past the line of scrimmage.

So, while the defensive tackle certainly had his ups and downs on Sunday, I’d argue that his grade should have been a little higher than what PFF gave him credit for.