Due to the off week and Will Muschamp’s only media appearances being scheduled for Wednesday, this week’s The Silver Lining was pushed to Thursday. It will next be published on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Jelani Jenkins, the NFL’s Leading Tackler
It’s easy to forget how much of an impact former Florida Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins had during his time with the team and some of that has to do with how often he was dealing with injuries in college.
Even the Miami Dolphins, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, did not appear to know what they had in Jenkins until they had no choice but to start him in Week 2 and 3 of this season.
Due to his performances the last two weeks, which have earned him back-to-back OnlyGators.com Player of the Week honors, Jenkins now leads the NFL with 25 total tackles and 35 combined tackles.
Not too shabby, huh?
Jenkins was drafted by the Dolphins for his coverage ability, and Miami saw him as a player it could groom to go up against pass-catching tight ends like New England’s Rob Gronkowski, an AFC East rival.
But with some high-priced veterans ahead of him, Jenkins did not get the opportunity to play on defense much as a rookie, which was not the worst thing because he likely needed some time to develop. He played about 21 snaps per game, according to the team, with only eight of those coming as a defender.
In fact, his best performance of 2013 came as a fourth-quarter substitute in the Dolphins’ second-to-last home game (against the Patriots) when he was instrumental in a game-ending drive that allowed Miami to hold on for the victory.
Jenkins did not start the Dolphins’ first game of 2014 either but did see an increased role as a reserve. Injuries to three linebackers forced Jenkins into the starting lineup in Week 2 and again in Week 3; all he has done is made the most of his opportunity by racking up 19 combined tackles (one for loss), a forced fumble, 1.5 sacks and a safety in those contests.
“Stats are just showing the hard work that I’ve put in since I got here,” Jenkins told Miami’s in-house radio show, The Finsiders. “I don’t want to change anything that I’m doing moving forward. I’m just going to keep on coming to work every day and everything else will play out. So far, it’s played out really well.”
When two of the Dolphins’ starting linebackers return from injury – the third is out for the season – Miami will have to make a decision about Jenkins’s role with the team. He is still playing special teams despite starting at linebacker, so that role will continue, but head coach Joe Philbin will have to decide if Jenkins has done enough to carve out a permanent starting role for himself on the defense.
In Jenkins’s mind, he’s prepared for the full-time responsibilities.
“I knew college was hard mentally, but these offensive coordinators in the NFL are just a whole ‘nother step. You really have to be on your toes and prepare completely. I think mentally has been the biggest adjustment from college. [Now I’m able to] see things before they happen, and I’m able to play fast,” he said.
Gators Making Waves in the NFL
While researching Jenkins’s stat totals, I came across a couple other Florida players who are currently standing out in some statistical categories.
» Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. leads the NFL in punt return attempts (11) and total punt return yards (149). He is grinding out 13.5 yards per punt return, the third-best in average in the NFL, and his long punt return of 47 yards is also third-longest in the league so far this season.
» Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap is fourth in the NFL with 3.0 sacks on the season.
» Indianapolis Colts cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy is one of 16 NFL players with two forced fumbles so far this year.
» St. Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins is one of eight NFL players with an interception returned for a touchdown through three weeks of the season.
» Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of 13 kickers that has hit a field goal of 50+ yards this season, and he’s currently 12th in the NFL in scoring with 26 points on the year.
» New York Jets WR David Nelson is one of three players who has fumbled the ball twice this season (he coughed the ball up twice in Week 3).
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Solomon Patton has the second-most kickoff return attempts (nine) and total yards (201) this season, though his long of 27 yards is the shortest of anyone in the top-20 of either category.
hoped thought my answering 42 questions posed during the Florida-Alabama game would satiate the need for me to weigh in on the current state of the Gators and future of both head coach Will Muschamp and redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Even now, five days after the game and in the middle of an off week, I am still receiving a couple emails a day ranting about the team and asking for my opinion on the situation.
Well, here it is: don’t panic.
I can and did – during the game – openly question Muschamp’s decision-making and Driskel’s play-making, or lack thereof.
As the de facto safeties coach, Muschamp’s position was arguably the worst on the field Saturday. Driskel, the signal caller whom both Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper praised throughout the offseason, completely folded against Alabama, playing the worst game of his entire career.
(It is important to note here that while Driskel was panned for his performance against Kentucky – yes, he did make his share of mistakes – I actually felt he deserved to be praised for how he played under pressure in the second half and overtime.)
I also had serious issues with Muschamp’s decision to not try and score at the end of the first half with just under two minutes on the clock and three timeouts at his disposal. His explanations for not doing so confound me as well. It was cowardice, not coaching. And considering no offensive changes were made at the half, it was simply a missed opportunity. I would dive deeper into this particular subject, but the truth is that it no longer matters five days after the fact.
So Muschamp entered the first half with three timeouts in his pocket, and he ended the game the same way. Florida did not call a single timeout on Saturday yet Muschamp has discussed over and again how his defense was unable to get off the field during Alabama’s huge third-quarter drive and was exhausted during the remainder of the game, allowing the Tide to convert third down after third down. Maybe call a timeout?
Despite all of this, Muschamp was never going to lose his job for dropping a road game to the No. 3 team in the country, and Muschamp was never going to bench Driskel for his performance – neither during the game nor entering the next contest.
Driskel does indeed give the Gators the best chance to win week-to-week. He not only has the game experience but has been the leader of the offense and has the best grasp of Roper’s system. What you will see is not Driskel being benched but rather freshman Treon Harris receiving an expanded role, one which could expand to UF using a two-quarterback system depending how Driskel plays going forward.
And before you scoff at that concept, it has worked for plenty of teams before, including UF (which utilized three to salvage the 2010 season) and at Duke for Roper (as recently as last season).
You can type until your fingers bleed, but it your back-and-forth on Muschamp and Driskel is not going to matter until something catastrophic happens at Florida…like signs of a repeat of 2013.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley has said on multiple occasions that Muschamp does not have a set number of games he needs to win in order to keep his job. I believe that to be an accurate and honest statement from Foley.
But Foley is also keenly aware of Muschamp’s failings during his career: the 4-8 season (first losing campaign since 1979), dropping a game to an FCS opponent, failing to make a bowl game for the first time in forever, ending an extremely long winning streak to Vanderbilt, failing to beat Georgia in three tries, escaping Kentucky in three overtimes, giving up a school-record amount of total yards to Alabama.
Muschamp does not have a set number of games he needs to win in 2014, but you can bet Foley has a checklist of things he wants his head coach to accomplish: return to a quality bowl game, beat Georgia, beat South Carolina, show signs of returning Florida to the top of the SEC East.
The Gators still have all of their goals in front of them and so does Muschamp. Until those begin to fall, he’s not going anywhere.
Florida will not get better by firing his head coach three games into the season or benching its veteran quarterback for a true freshman who would have to go through the likes of LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri and Florida State before the year is out.
If you dislike Muschamp and do not think he is the long-term answer for the Gators, you should be much more concerned about him winning rather than losing. Either way, it will all work itself out in the end.
Not Only Gators: Big Brother 16
Those that read my personal Twitter account know full well that I am an avid watcher of the CBS reality program Big Brother – and have been since the very first season.
Season 16 came to a conclusion on Wednesday with Derrick Levasseur, a detective from Providence, Rhode Island, winning the $500,000 grand prize. It also featured a recent Florida graduate – and as it turns out, fraternity brother of mine – Zach Rance.
Rance played a solid game overall and was definitely entertaining on the program, at least for viewers at home. He even wore a Gators shirt basically every episode and did the Gator Chomp when evicting fellow houseguests. But Rance was definitely not doing everything necessary to ultimately win the game.
Levasseur, on the other hand, played a near-perfect game and became the first houseguest in the history of the show to never be nominated once throughout the season. In fact, the only time he even sat on the block was at the end of the show, when another finalist had to choose who to take with him to the end. That decision ultimately cost the other finalist $450,000.
CBS announced Wednesday that Big Brother has been renewed for seasons 17 and 18, which is no surprise considering it is “one of the summer’s top-rated original series” with an average of 7.6 million viewers (2.7 million adults 18-49), per The Hollywood Reporter.
It appears as if one of the next two seasons will be filled with all-stars. Long-time viewers of the program are well aware that the last all-star season brought with it plenty of unforgettable moments.
What CBS must still decide is how the show will be formatted going forward. The 16th season of the show included two Heads of Household, a weekly Battle of the Block competition and a surprise twist – Team America – all for the first time. Whether any or all of those show features return for season 17 very much remains to be seen.
Overall, season 16 was a bit of a downer. Nearly all of the eviction votes were unanimous, there was very little controversy on the show and one alliance dominated the entire game. For those of us who are avid viewers, let’s hope season 17 has more fun in store.
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