Jaguars free-agent signee Rayshawn Jenkins relishes the depth, competition at safety

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins runs through drills during training camp Thursday.

Competition is the lifeblood of a football team. 

Without it, no one gets better.

One of the most competitive situations in training camp for the Jaguars will be at both safety positions, where there is a strong mix of returning players, free agents and one talented draft pick. 

Rayshawn Jenkins will be squarely in the mix. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who played his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers will be contending with returning strong safety starter Josh Jones, with additional competition from third-year veteran Andrew Wingard and second-year veteran Daniel Thomas. 

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At free safety, veteran Jarrod Wilson is trying to hold off third-round draft pick Andre Cisco, with veteran Brandon Rusnak in the mix. 

Another free-agent signee, Rudy Ford, played both positions in four years at Arizona and Philadelphia but may find more playing time on special teams. 

Jenkins, who had nine interceptions and 201 tackles in four years at the University of Miami, loves the blend. 

"We've got a pretty good, tight-knit group of guys," he said on Thursday after the Jaguars practiced for more than two hours on a stifling, windless second day of training camp. "All ages, and everyone can play. I think free and strong safety will be a battle the whole camp." 

A bit of a surprise is that Rusnak, a fourth-year player, had the best practice of the safeties, with two pass break-ups. But Jenkins also was in good position on several plays, including twice during a seven-on-seven period. 

Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., gets past Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins in a 2020 game. The two are on the same side this season after Jenkins signed a free-agent contract with the Jags.

There might have been even more plays but the secondary is still restricted from making contact with the receivers and going hard to the ball. 

"It's like you've got some tools, and you go in [the tool box] to take a tool out that you need," Jenkins said. "When the pads go on, we'll be able to get in these guys faces and challenge these guys." 

The Jaguars began full-team periods with Wilson and Wingard playing together. Additional combinations in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods included Thomas and Jones, Jenkins and Rusnak, Thomas and Ford and Rusnak and Cisco. 

Jenkins is one of the more intriguing free-agent signings the Jaguars made. A boyhood friend in St. Petersburg with another 2021 free-agent signee, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, Jenkins brings athleticism and strong run support to the mix. 

He was second on the Los Angeles Chargers in tackles with 84 last season, and started 31 games in the past two years. When Jenkins was at Farragut Academy, he played defensive back, quarterback, wide receiver and running back and for kicks was a state champion high hurdler. 

While it's difficult to get a handle on the defense until the team goes into full pads on Tuesday, Jenkins likes what he sees so far out of the entire unit. 

"We're still feeling things out but we are really competitive ... that's one thing I can see out of this group of guys. I've played on top-five defenses and [the feeling early in training camp] was similar." 

Jenkins said the defensive line should be improved, which will only help the secondary. 

"They [the Jaguars] went into free agency to rebuild the defensive line and I feel like it's going to be one of our strong points," he said. "Rush and cover ... they work together. If we can get those guys going, we can have a great season in the back end." 

In the meantime, Jenkins is getting acclimated to his teammates and has been impressed with two of them: Wilson, the steady veteran and Cisco, the eager rookie. 

"Jarrod is a great guy ... I'm seeing the maturity of a guy like that," he said. "It's really inspiring. He does everything right, the details ... he's a true veteran." 

Jenkins said it's hard to believe Cisco is coming off knee surgery. 

"I like the way he moves, especially coming off a knee injury," he said. "Being able to move like that ... if you didn't know he had knee surgery, you couldn't tell just from looking at him. Quick breaks, really smooth." 

Jenkins also is taking his status as a five-year player seriously with the younger players. 

"[Cisco] is really poised as a young player," he said. "I wasn't as poised as him. I was telling him that, staying in his ear, so he can compare his game to other guys."