Landon Collins certainly knows that the Giants are facing the Steelers on Sunday and that the secondary will have to deal with All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. But even if he didn’t, he’d probably know something was up just from watching Janoris Jenkins.
The cornerback, he said, has been excitedly preparing for what will likely be the biggest challenge of his Giants tenure. There’s a bounce in his step, a sparking in his eye. “Jackrabbit,” as Jenkins is called, is hoppy.
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He’s covered Dez Bryant, he’s covered A.J. Green. They had a total of eight catches and 76 yards against the Giants. Now, if the Giants’ history of defensive schemes holds true, he’ll be lined up against Brown.
“He’s looking forward to that,” Collins said of his teammate. “He’s excited about it. He loves the competition. He wants to be known as one of the best corners, and you have to go against the best receivers to be one of the best corners.”
The Giants believe he can.
“He’s the best at his game in what he does,” Collins said of Jenkins. “Every time he steps on the field we know that whatever receiver he is on it’s going to be a challenge for that receiver to catch the ball.”
Even the best receiver?
“Even the best receiver.”
There’s a good case to be made that Brown is just that. He leads the NFL with 82 receptions, is tied for the lead with 10 receiving touchdowns, and is third with 998 receiving yards. Sixteen of his catches have been for 20 or more yards.
Keeping him contained will be a chore. The Giants believe Jenkins is up to it.
Trevin Wade, a fellow cornerback, said the Giants consider Jenkins to be one of their two shutdown corners along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That’s important to have because the Steelers are deep at receiver. Ten different players have caught touchdown passes this season.
“We feel like they can guard anybody,” Wade said.
The marquee matchup, though, will be between Jenkins and Brown.
Jenkins downplayed the idea that he’s any more amped up for this challenge than he has been in previous weeks. But he seemed very open to it. Asked if he’d like to shadow Brown, he said: “I would.” And he did seem chipper about the matchup.
“It’s going to be competitive, man,” he said. “We’re gonna have fun, gonna compete, and I’m ready for my job.”
That’s what the Giants like most about him.
“He likes that challenge,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “I know one thing, he doesn’t back down from anybody. He loves to compete. He’s an elite competitor. He’s got that inside.”
Jenkins signed a free-agent deal with the Giants after playing four seasons for the Rams, where he had a reputation for giving up big plays. So far with the Giants, though, that hasn’t happened. The difference, he said, is in the situations he finds himself.
“I was in St. Louis taking more chances because we were always behind and somebody needed to make a play,” he said. “Right now I’m just technique and fundamentals . . . We’re either playing great defense all around or we’re not behind by 21. [I’m] just playing within the scheme.”
And doing it very well. In New York. Which is exactly what he wanted when he signed here this offseason.
“It’s exciting,” he said of his first taste of a big market, not to mention a winning team. “It makes me want to compete even more. Because everybody’s watching. You know everybody’s watching. All the time.”
On Sunday, they’ll be watching how he does against Brown. And he gets to make a statement about his own place in the leaguewide cornerback hierarchy. The Giants already put him near the top of that list. But, as Collins said, to be considered the best he’ll have to face the best.
“He’s one of the best, he’s up there,” Jenkins said of Brown. “Many say he’s the best. But we’ll play football and just have fun.”