This is the second in a series of blog postings that will take place over the course of the next seven days. In light of my professor throwing down the gauntlet and issuing a blogging challenge, I will be providing more content, more frequently. Yesterday was actually the start of this, so let’s get on with it.

I was reading an interesting blog post by Matt Mosley of ESPN, in which he talks about a conversation he had with former Cowboys player and current Steelers defensive assistant, Ray Horton.  Mosley asked Horton his opinion of Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins and whether or not the Steelers had any interest in the former South Florida star when he entered the draft in 2008.  Here was Horton’s response:

“I didn’t want him at the time because he wouldn’t tackle,” said Horton. “If you’re going to play for us, you have to be able to tackle. Or you need to be picking off a lot of balls.”

I know I’ve belabored the point recently (and by recently, I mean since I started the blog), but considering the secondary problems Dallas has had, the point he makes is interesting.

I did some quick research to see what Jenkins has done, both in college and the NFL.  I saw him play a fair amount in college, being that I am a WVU fan, and USF is in the same conference.  He was a good player, but statistically speaking, his numbers weren’t off the charts.  I realize this is inexact and statistics can be misleading at times, but let’s take a look at what he did at USF and compare it to the above statement by Horton.

Mike Jenkins has regressed since his Pro Bowl season in 2009.

While in college, Mike Jenkins had a grand total of 119 tackles over four seasons, with a career high of 39.  Also during this time, he intercepted six passes. For comparison, take a look at Nnamdi Asomugha’s collegiate stats.  Asomugha is considered the premier CB in the league, and he had more tackles and almost as many interceptions in virtually half the time, as he only played two full seasons.  College stats aren’t the most important thing when evaluating talent, but it is one barometer that gives insight into a player’s abilities.

Jenkins wasn’t a tackling machine in college, and he wasn’t a ball-hawk either.  He was average at both.  Deion Sanders couldn’t tackle either, but he knew how to get the ball, and he knew what to do once it was in his hands.  Jenkins made the Pro Bowl in 2009 after getting 49 tackles, defending against 19 passes, and intercepting five more.  In 2010, he had slightly more tackles, but his interceptions and passes defended were way down, as he had just one and nine, respectively.  In fact, the lone pick he had was a gift wrapped turnover that he didn’t even have to earn.

This leads back to the original point about evaluating talent.  The last half of this decade, the Steelers have been in the Super Bowl three times.  Dallas, of course, hasn’t been there since the 1995 season.  Clearly, Pittsburgh has figured out how to obtain and sustain success over a period of years.  Dallas, of course, has not.  I was overjoyed when they finally won a playoff game last season.  Meanwhile, the Steelers could win their third Super Bowl in six years.

As much as I hate the Steelers, you have to hand it to them.  They know how to win consistently, along with only a couple other teams.  Every year, they are in the mix.  Much of that comes down to personnel and player scouting.  I’ll admit, I liked the pick at the time, but for whatever reason, Jenkins just wasn’t able to get it done in 2010.

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