A number of intriguing matchups are presenting themselves for Sunday’s Jets-Packers tangle at the Meadowlands. One of them involves a guard that Rex Ryan has elevated on the praise meter going up against a defensive tackle that Kris Jenkins thinks the world of. More explanation follows.
The guard is Matt Slauson, and the Jets head coach presented him today with one of his Rexy awards.
“I think Matt’s as good a left guard as there is in our division,” Ryan said at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “So when you put him up against the Miami kid, Incognito, or the kid at Buffalo, the short-armed kid, Levitre, something like that, Slauson’s right there with them. Now if New England gets Logan Mankins back, he’s clearly the best guard, but right now Slauson, in my opinion, I’ll take him over any of these guards in our division.”
Slauson probably doesn’t have an incentive in his contract for being the best starting left guard in the AFC East according to his head coach. But the second-year man is pleased just the same.
“It was a nice thing to say, it was a great thing to hear,” he said this afternoon in front of his locker. “But I know I’m still young and I know I can be playing so much better. I have a lot of growing and I’ve just got to keep on working.”
The work this week in some part involves preparing to go up against an NFC defensive tackle on the rise in Cullen Jenkins. The last name is no coincidence — Cullen is the 6’2″, 305-pound, 29-year-old kid brother of Big Jenks, the 6’4″, 350-pound, 31-year-old Jets DT.
Kris, we all know, is on injured reserve for a second season, but he’s doing well in his early left knee rehab, he’s coming off a terrific turn on the CBS NFL Today panel before Sunday’s games, and he had a bit of a scouting report on his brother as he visited with reporters today.
“Cullen’s always been a lot quicker than me, more naturally gifted,” Kris said. “I know a lot of people look at me as being a beast or whatever when I’m on the field. With the type of athletic ability he has, he definitely has the potential to be a high-caliber player in this league.”
“I know he’s a great player,” said Slauson. “Obviously he’s Kris’ brother. I know what Kris does, and if he’s half of what Kris is, he’s going to be a handful and a half.”
But there are two wrinkles in this potential interior line slugfest. One is Cullen Jenkins’ calf injury. He aggravated it during warmups before the Sunday night game against Minnesota and wound up as a DNP against the Vikings. And he is listed on the Packers’ injury report today as limited at practice with the injury.
Kris says as far as he knows, Cullen will be ready to roll on Sunday.
“I think he thinks so,” Big Jenks reported. “But he’s honestly not going to share that with me just because I’m the enemy for this week and he is the younger brother, so he always tries to take advantage of the situation to be able to show up his brother.”
Slauson said he’s preparing for perhaps a three-headed DT — Jenkins as well as second-year man Jarius Wynn and rookie C.J. Wilson.
As for picking Kris Jenkins’ brain on how to approach Cullen, Slauson said, “I don’t really want to get into any of that because you never know. Players change on a weekly basis. There’s been a lot of times where I’ve watched film and I say, ‘OK, this is this guy’s go-to move,’ and I get into the game and he doesn’t do it at all, or he uses it twice.”
“I don’t know sometimes what to believe when it comes out of his mouth,” Big Jenks said of Little Jenks. “I just take it all with a grain of salt and I tell everybody to make sure you watch film and see what he’s going to do.”
One thing is certain: Slauson’s been doing everything the Jets had hoped and more in stepping in for Alan Faneca between C Nick Mangold and T D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He got beaten for a sack on opening night by Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata. But as Ryan said, “I’ve got news for you — Ngata makes maybe everybody look average. He’s got a chance to be Defensive Player of the Year, in my opinion.”
And ever since, Slauson has been improving in leaps and bounds. He’s a great story to document, one minute admitting he was “scared every day all throughout the offseason” about not wanting to be the line’s weak link, the next minute saying, “I knew in my heart that I was going to win the job.”
“My goal wasn’t to come out and be mediocre. It was to come in, replace a Hall of Fame guard and play as good as he did,” Slauson said. “Last year we were the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL, a great pass-blocking team, and I didn’t want to take a step back., And I feel like not only have I not done that but that we’ve gotten better as a group.”
Ryan lists only three players on today’s first injury report of the week: Calvin Pace (foot), limited, and Mangold (shoulder) and CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) as full practicers. “We’re healthy coming off that bye week and ready to roll,” said Rex.
The Packers list nine injured players, including eight starters who were limited or worse at today’s practice: Out — ROLB Brad Jones; Did Not Practice — WR Donald Driver (quad) and LDE Ryan Pickett (ankle); Limited — LT Chad Clifton (knee), RT Mark Tauscher (shoulder), CB Charles Woodson (toe), FS Nick Collins (knee) and Jenkins.
Tags: Cullen Jenkins, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Green Bay Packers, Kris Jenkins, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan
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