Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Steelers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders CB Mike Jenkins vs. Steelers WR Antonio Brown
Tale of the tape:
Jenkins (21): 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, sixth season, South Florida
Brown (84): 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, fourth season, Central Michigan
The Raiders brought veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins in to be a stabilizing force in the secondary. The former Pro Bowler is a guy you don’t have to worry about, someone you simply plug in and go play.
Jenkins has done exactly that over six games. He’s proven healthy after nagging injuries slowed him the past two seasons, when he fell out of favor with the Dallas Cowboys. Jenkins is back playing well, typically an afterthought in a strong Raiders secondary.
“In a weird way, that’s a compliment,” Jenkins said. “If you’re doing your job as a corner and not giving up big plays, people sometimes focus on other things. That’s fine. I’m confident in how I’m playing and the way I prepare. I look inside first, and decide how I can control an opponent. But you have to study your guy and give them the respect they deserve.”
Jenkins has to respect Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, the team’s clear-cut go-to guy. Brown has 47 receptions for 548 yards and two touchdowns, numbers even more impressive considering just 10 passes throw his way have fallen incomplete.
That trend could continue against Jenkins, who has allowed 20 catches on 28 targets. While catches have come against the veteran corner, yards after the catch are hard to come by. Save a play against Denver where he gambled on an interception and lost, receivers can’t get by Jenkins. He has just two missed tackles over the past five games.
Limiting Brown’s catches are difficult. Limiting big plays is what Jenkins has done best during a season designed to resurrect his career. He signed a one-year contract with the Raiders in hopes of playing his way into a long-term deal next offseason. He also wanted to re-establish himself as a healthy, productive player.
“I’ve been working to get to this point for the last two years,” Jenkins said. “It’s been a tough task, but I’m finally feeling good about how I’m feeling and how I’m playing. They key for this period is to build my reputation as a productive player back up. We’re getting there now, but I have to keep putting good performances together, no matter whom I’m facing. Sunday is the next chance to do so. I’m looking forward to it.”