Rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins has fast become a core player for a Rams defense on the rise. With three wins on the trot - all of them fuelled by tough team D - this young St. Louis squad has positioned itself for a surprise last-minute surge towards the playoffs.
Jenkins, a second round pick earlier this year, has been a big part of the resurgence, scoring three defensive touchdowns single-handedly between Weeks 12 and 13. What’s his secret to making game changing plays? ‘Attack the ball like it’s mine,’ he says with obvious glee.
Team Talk’s first defensive interviewee of the season, Janoris also spoke to us about what it was like to visit London for this year’s International Series matchup, talked fondly about time spent teaching British kids the rules of the game, and summed up playing at Wembley in one simple word: ‘Whoa.’ A self-confessed fantasy novice, Janoris preferred to leave the strategy to the experts, with one caveat: this attacking Rams defense is for real. NFLUK players, take note.
Janoris, the Rams have won three in a row. How realistically is the team thinking playoffs?
JJ: It’s always one game at a time, and we’re just trying to get better game by game, play by play. But it’s good for our organisation and our fans. The goal is to come out and play hard-nosed football.
Do you feel like few pundits gave the team a chance to be in contention this late in the season?
JJ: We weren’t concerned about what the media has to say about our team, we were just focused on playing football. We knew what we were capable of doing, and it’s a team where every man’s got every other man’s back.
You were selected in the second round year of this year’s draft - after other cornerbacks you’ve since outperformed. Does that give you a little extra incentive?
JJ: You know, I’d have that same mindset whether I was the first cornerback drafted or the last. I just want to play in the league and be a good teammate - that’s always been my dream. I started playing football at seven, and I realised as early as nine that I wanted to be a professional.
You’ve scored three touchdowns on your own in the last three weeks. What’s the secret?
JJ: Just playing D! When the ball is in the air, attack it like it’s mine. When the ball is on the ground, swarm it in case it’s a fumble. Hustle. My mindset is: the ball is mine.
So you’ve definitely got that ‘ballhawk’ mentality?
JJ: I like to have the ball in my hands.
Tell us a little bit about your experience of London when you came over here…
JJ: It was great. It was my first time leaving the country, seeing another side of the world. I really enjoyed it - especially going out to meet with kids that didn’t know a lot about the game of football and breaking it down for them to understand. They soon caught on.
There will be two games here in 2013. Did you get the sense this is a place that could one day support a team of its own?
JJ: Yeah maybe one day, I think when people in general learn about the game more. When there have been more games there, it could happen.
Any ideas for a London team name?
JJ: Oh wow. I have no idea! You’ll have to come back to me on that.
Let’s get to some questions from Twitter and e-mail. First up Peter Hughes asks: ‘How have teammates like Cortland Finnegan helped you to develop?’
JJ: Cortland is very helpful with watching film, with how to study, with different routes and concepts. He keeps me motivated and he’s a great guy, a great student of the game. He’s a role model for me.
Michael Stuart wonders: ‘How confident are you that you can make it into the playoffs with the Vikings, Buccaneers and Seahawks to finish?’
JJ: Like I say, our focus is just one game at a time. We have the Vikings first this weekend and they’re a pretty good team with a lot of talent.
Nyman asks: ’Which part of your game do you think you need to work on most moving forward?’
JJ: The simple things really. My focus, eyes, and those first five yards of the receiver’s route.
And MilsterMaid says: ‘What were your feelings when you first stepped out into Wembley stadium when you played here?’
JJ: It was a great atmosphere. It’s pretty loud! I was like: ‘Whoa!’
You don’t play a whole lot of fantasy football, but if you did would you be ultra-competitive?
JJ: To be honest, I’d have to play for fun because, never having done it, I don’t yet understand it!
How about this Rams team defense? It’s tenth overall and second in sacks, and there’s a good young nucleus of players too…
JJ: We take care of our assignments and we swarm to the ball. Chris Long goes hard on every play. And guys like that, like James Laurinaitis, Craig Dahl and Kendall Langford… they just inspire you to play even harder.
To find out who’s up next in our Team Talk interviews, keep an eye on @NFL_UK and @MikeELawrence on Tuesday afternoons. You can submit questions for our next interviewee on Tuesdays @MikeELawrence.