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McLane: Jenkins still fighting for league-wide respect

Malcolm Jenkins has a whiteboard that hangs on the left side of his locker stall. There are color-coded messages written on the panel - notes the Eagles safety uses as reminders for areas in which he wants to improve.

Malcolm Jenkins has a whiteboard that hangs on the left side of his locker stall. There are color-coded messages written on the panel - notes the Eagles safety uses as reminders for areas in which he wants to improve.

Jenkins will sometimes make daily changes to the board, but mostly he goes week to week. There may be a leftover or two, but this week, for instance, as the Eagles prepare to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday, he has the following listed:

Open field tackling

Playing with balance

Keeping pad level down

Eyes in the right spot in man-to-man

"Each week I'm trying to get better at particular things, whatever shows up the week before that I might have messed up on," Jenkins said, "or something where I want to take my game to."

Jenkins seemingly has as little to improve as he has ever had. Last season was a breakout one, but this season he's off to a start that could augment his standing around the NFL. Jenkins earned his first Pro Bowl invitation in 2015, but only after other safeties backed out and made room for the alternate.

He was stung by the initial snub but understood that there was competition. But when Jenkins learned that he was the seventh alternate, it further chipped away at a grudge he has held since the Saints allowed him to walk away in free agency three years ago.

Does he think his explosive three-game start will help him earn the league-wide recognition he feels he deserves?

"No, not really," Jenkins said this week. "Obviously, the fans here and this team appreciate me, but when you're talking about league-wide, just the respect from my opponents, I don't know. And because I don't know, I'm just telling myself that it's not [there] and I act accordingly."

Jenkins understands that statistics, fair or not, can influence outsiders and that defensive backs are often judged, fairly or not, by the number of interceptions they accrue. He has not had a lot, but he could have had he not dropped so many. There were about five would-be interceptions he couldn't hang onto last year. He has had two opportunities he failed to convert this year.

"The next level in being able to completely take over a game is coming up with those interceptions," Jenkins said. "I would love to obviously come up with them, but at the same time, I don't get frustrated. I'm still making a lot of plays, and when you're around the ball as much as I've been able to [be] the last few games, good things are bound the happen."

Still, Jenkins said this offseason that catching the ball in those situations would be his primary focus. It is why he doesn't need it written on his eraser board. Fellow safety Rodney McLeod, who already has two interceptions, is also there to remind him.

"When I came in [as a free agent], he was like, 'Yeah, I dropped a lot last year,' " McLeod said of Jenkins. "Before the Steelers [game last week] I joked, 'Is this finally going to be the game?' "

It could be much worse. Jenkins could, like some safeties, hardly ever get his hands on the football. The Eagles have already credited him with five pass breakups, tying him with cornerback Nolan Carroll for most on the team. Among NFL safeties, his 25 breakups from 2014 to 2015 were second only to those of the Bengals' Reggie Nelson.

Jenkins is a converted cornerback, which may be one reason he doesn't have a national reputation like the Seahawks' Earl Thomas or the Chiefs' Eric Berry, but he also has become one of the NFL's better in-the-box safeties. He had 13 tackles for losses last season. He has a sack this season.

The 28-year-old Jenkins' role has shifted some this year. Aside from playing safety, he was the slot corner in the Eagles' nickel defense a year ago. He lobbied to stay there, but new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has gone with Ron Brooks in the slot rather than have Jaylen Watkins spell Jenkins at safety so he could move inside.

The safeties have leeway to go right and left or free and strong, but Jenkins has spent the majority of his time near or in the box, while McLeod has manned center field. Jenkins would be the first to admit that he's a bit of a control freak. He still likes to make the secondary calls from down low even though most coordinators would prefer for the back safety to set the linebackers.

"He likes to control a lot of things," McLeod said. "But I feel like at least he knows that I'm on the other side and how I work and that I can take some of that stress off him. You can't help how he is in general. That's who he is."

Jenkins' preparation is renowned. Coach Doug Pederson's new schedule has allowed for 30-minute player meetings in the afternoon that Jenkins has used to gather the defensive backs and linebackers for film study.

"We all meet up and he literally runs the whole thing - from calls to what to look for," McLeod said. "That's the veteran in him. He's seen a lot."

Schwartz said even before the season that he thought that Jenkins and McLeod could be one of the best safety tandems in the league. Thomas and Kam Chancellor are often cited as the top of the heap.

"We're anxious for that matchup," McLeod said of the Seattle safeties the Eagles will see in a month.

Jenkins said that he believes they are already in that class.

"So far that's been the case," he said. "We know the tandems in the league that are really established, so we're working week in and week out to be at the top of the list."

If Jenkins can't get the individual props, maybe he can as part of a duo. He's good at making lists.