Free agency didn’t go as Jordan Jenkins hoped, but that’s not the reason the veteran linebacker has come into his fifth training camp as a Jet a little ornery.
Jenkins is sick and tired of losing and hopes 2020 will be different for the Jets.
“Honestly, when I came here, I know the Jets didn’t really have a winning history and it really sucks in the last four years that we couldn’t get it done,” Jenkins said during a Zoom call Thursday. “I’m tired of [expletive] losing. We just got to ramp [expletive] up and get the ball rolling.”
Jenkins wasn’t done dropping expletives, especially after he was asked if he thinks the Jets are close to being a winning team.
“Hopefully we’re pretty [expletive] close,” he said. “It’s hopefully up to us to decide whether we go out there and do it. All the talking, all that’s done. It’s just time for us to go out there and do it. If you can’t do it, get gone or step up.”
Since the Jets drafted Jenkins out of Georgia in the third round in 2016, they’ve gone 21-43. Their last winning season was in 2015, when they went 10-6 but still missed the playoffs. They’ve haven’t been in the postseason in nine years.
Jenkins empathizes with Jets fans.
“I’m not from New York,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’re tired of it, too.”
The Jets started 1-7 last year before coming on at the end of the season to win six of their last eight games. They’re hoping some of that will carry over to this season, but the Jets traded their best and most impactful defensive player, Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, to Seattle.
No one is left on the roster from the Jets' last playoff team, or the last one with a winning record. With the recent releases of Brian Winters and Quincy Enunwa, Jenkins and veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon are the longest-tenured Jets. McLendon, a captain, was signed in 2016.
“Me and Steve talked about it this offseason when we were training together at his gym back in Georgia,” Jenkins said. “It’s crazy to think about that. I’m only going into Year 5, I’m 26, and it’s crazy to think I’m one of the longest-standing guys. In those years, we’ve seen a lot of turnover in the locker room. We want to try and see what we can do this year. It’s definitely changed the way we go about things in our position room.
“We try to hold guys more accountable and try to do more and ask more from the guys to make that next big step up. As guys who have been here the longest, we got to step up ourselves if we want to be leaders and try and help the team get over the hump.”
If Jenkins wanted to improve his chances of winning, maybe he should have signed elsewhere. But the market for one of the Jets’ most productive players never really materialized during free agency.
Jenkins has improved each year he’s been in the league. He tied for the Jets' lead in sacks in 2018 with seven and had a career-high eight last year, which was tops on the team. Early in free agency, there were reports that Jenkins would not return because he would get more lucrative deals elsewhere. He ended up signing a one-year contract to return to the Jets for less than $4 million.
“Ultimately, I was just going to take it in stride and let things happen,” Jenkins said. “A lot of unforeseen things happened in free agency with the pandemic outbreak, some guys not getting what they’re supposed to get. Honestly, I’m glad to get back with the Jets, always love G-Dub and his staff.”
G-Dub is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is in his second season on the job and believes the Jets will succeed without Adams and linebacker C.J. Mosley, who opted out of 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns. Jenkins said having Williams in charge of the defense is an advantage after all offseason on-field workouts were canceled.
“We've got some new faces in here and to be able to have the same defensive scheme, it puts you ahead of the ball,” Jenkins said. “The way we do stuff, the way we go through plays, we’re ahead of the curve right now than we were at this time last year. We didn’t have OTAs and stuff. But all the vets in each room held each other accountable and made sure all the young guys learn all the stuff they’re supposed to do. We’re just ahead of it.
“Having Gregg back is a great asset to the defense and it gives the guys comfort. We already know what we’re supposed to do. Just go out there and do it.”