The Rams and 49ers have a storied rivalry that has included 126 prior meetings and a nearly identical win-loss record. Both teams currently stand at a crossroads at 1-2 on the young season, with Thursday night’s meeting serving as a major boon to the winner in the crowded NFC West race. But for one Ram, this week’s game against San Francisco represents an additional key matchup.
“We do things a little different football-wise in Pahokee,” Jenkins said, who rehashed oft-told stories of chasing rabbits through the collection of neighborhoods commonly referred to as, ‘The Muck.’ “Kids who come out of that area, all they know is football.”
Boldin was perhaps the most notable of NFL players from Pahokee while Jenkins was in high school, and made a habit of keeping tabs on his hometown. Jenkins recounted high school memories of an already-established Boldin returning to Pahokee to speak to and work out with his team, and providing a visual of where the game of football could take him and his teammates.
“He talked a lot to us about doing the right thing off the field and just focusing on school and staying out of trouble,” Jenkins said. “During my senior year of high school, we’d also go at it a lot (on the field), so it’s going to be a lot of fun. To face a guy from your hometown is going to be more exciting. It’s televised, the whole town is going to be watching and you’ve got two guys from the same town competing.”
While Thursday will mark the first time Jenkins and Boldin will be competing against each other, they and many of their NFL brethren from ‘The Muck’ have kept close tabs on each other. When one player holds an event in Pahokee or its nearby area, many others will make a point to be there.
“We always communicate and keep that relationship because, us being in the NFL and from the same community, giving back and going back at the same time is a big boost for our community, so we reach out to each other, ” Jenkins said.
Since bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, Jenkins has staked his claim as arguably the team’s best cover corner. The second-year pro out of Northern Alabama paced the Rams with four interceptions in his rookie year, and has recently found himself matched up against opposing teams’ top receivers. Through three weeks this season, he’s squared off against Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Dallas’ Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
“You’ve got to try to get in their head,” said Jenkins, describing his strategy for defending the league’s best receivers. “You’ve got to understand that they’re going to make plays, because they get paid, too. But you’ve got to make most of the plays.”
While the Rams’ defense had its struggles as a unit in each of the last two weeks, Head Coach Jeff Fisher pointed to Jenkins as a notable bright spot during his Monday news conference.
This week, Jenkins and his teammates will be tasked with aiding in limiting a San Francisco offense that has struggled recently, but began the season with 412 yards through the air against Green Bay.
Both individually and as a collective defense, Jenkins stressed a simple approach as the key to stopping the 49ers.
“It’s all about fundamentals and technique, getting back to the basics,” Jenkins said. “Being coached well by Coach (Chuck) Cecil and Coach Tim Walton, and just playing football without thinking.”