FOXBORO, Mass. – Michael Jenkins doesn’t have many wide receivers who have been in the Patriots’ system in the past to lean on. But he still seems to be picking up the offense pretty quickly.
Jenkins and Danny Amendola have been working with Tom Brady the most since the beginning of OTAs. It might be unfair to call them the starters at this point, but they are getting the most reps. Some of that may be Jenkins’ veteran experience. He’s been in the league since 2004, when he was the Falcons’ first-round pick. He moved on to the Vikings in 2011 and has been good for just around 500 yards, 40 catches and three or four touchdowns every year.
Jenkins doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed by the Patriots’ playbook, which has plagued many receivers in the past.
“No, if you put the work in, it comes easy to you,” Jenkins said when asked if the playbook is as difficult as everyone says it is. “So it’s just really taking the time to do extra and whatever you need to do to be right on the field.”
Jenkins’ work appears to be paying off so far. Injuries seem to be plaguing the wideouts early in the offseason, as we haven’t seen much lately from Aaron Dobson and Donald Jones, and Mark Harrison and Josh Boyce have been bothered by injuries since before OTAs. But Jenkins is still playing over many guys, and those added reps can only help him build a relationship with Brady.
“It’s huge,” Jenkins said of chemistry. “You have got to be on the same page. We do a lot in the system, and guys have to work hard, know what they’re doing out there. So we can try to be as perfect as possible.”
With Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch all gone, that just leaves Julian Edelman (who hasn’t been on the practice field yet with a foot injury) and Kamar Aiken as the only wideouts who have experience in the offense. Since there are so few wideouts to lean on, Jenkins has to pick the brains of Brady, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
“That’s when you’re around Tom,” Jenkins said. “You’re around some of the other guys like Aaron and Gronk and the guys that have kind of been here. Even Kamar, who was here last year. Just trying to pick everybody’s brains and do your job studying. Always trying to find a way to get better.”
Jenkins has to find a balance between looking out for himself to try to make the team, trying to be a good teammate and trying to be a leader to the young players. Those players that Jenkins is mentoring are the same ones who could beat him out for a roster spot in the wide-open wide receiver race.
“It’s real competitive,” Jenkins said. “Everybody wants to get out there and make plays. We encourage each other, but at the same time, we’re all competing. So we’re just going out, working hard. Everybody’s helping each other and just trying to get better.
“You’re trying to help. Obviously you’re trying to do your job, but I’ve had older guys help me when I was a young guy. And now I’m more of the mature one. I won’t say older. Just trying to help each other out.”
There are very few locks for a roster spot among the wide receivers. Amendola and Dobson are almost guaranteed to make the team, as is special teamer Matthew Slater. After that it gets cloudy, and the team may only carry five players at the position, depending on how many running backs and tight ends are kept.
It appears that Jenkins has a step up on his competition, and taking in the playbook may be the most important aspect of the competition.
“You just try to do your job and be there where you’re supposed to be,” Jenkins said. “Because [Brady]’s going to get it there.
“I don’t have everything down right now. It’s our job to know what we’re doing out there. I’m trying to pick it up as fast as I can and be able to help out the team as much as I can.”