Unheralded Cullen Jenkins will bring big impact wherever he signs
Defensive Hog Index measures defensive fronts and is a good predictor of success
Cullen Jenkins has been a big part of the Packers' recent DHI dynasty
Success of the Packers' defense has changed with Jenkins in and out of the lineup
Albert Haynesworth stole the Defensive Hog limelight today, after he was traded by the Redskins to the Patriots. But the Cold, Hard Football Facts put little stock in big names and big headlines. We put big stock in big data -- numbers that prove a player's merit on the field and in the trenches, where games are won and lost.
So we're enamored with a less-heralded and less-publicized defensive lineman who has had a big and obvious impact on the fortunes of his team: Cullen Jenkins, the Green Bay free agent rumored to be going almost everywhere (Washington, most recently). Most teams could benefit from his quietly effective services.
Jenkins, an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, has been a great NFL success story. He is the younger brother of the more highly touted and recently retired Kris Jenkins. Little Bro has turned into a key contributor for the consistently great Green Bay Defensive Hogs -- at least according to the Cold, Hard Football Facts' almighty Defensive Hog Index. The Packers D-Hogs have typically dominated when he's been on the field. They've struggled when he's been on the sidelines.
Jenkins provides us a perfect way to measure the history of the Defensive Hog Index, which has a proven track record of consistently spotlighting Super Bowl champions by measuring each defensive front in three key areas: run defense, forcing Negative Pass Plays, and third-down defense. He joined the NFL in 2004 -- the same year we launched Cold, Hard Football Facts.com and our "Quality Stats" that have a direct correlation to winning football games. So Jenkins' rookie year is the first year for which we have Defensive Hog Index data.
What follows is a look at the fortunes of Green Bay's defensive front since Jenkins joined the team. You'll see Green Bay has consistently fielded a great unit since he arrived on the scene, at least since his sophomore campaign. Granted, the team has had plenty of defensive talent around him, in players such as sack-master Aaron Kampman, stalwart linebacker A.J. Hawk, playmaker Clay Matthews and 2009 No. 9 overall pick B.J. Raji. But you'll notice, especially in recent years, that the fortunes of the Green Bay defensive front seemed to change depending upon the amount of time Jenkins spent on the field, whether at defensive tackle or, later, at defensive end.
2004: The undrafted rookie not only made the team, but also worked his way into the Packers' rotation with six starts and an unexpected impact (4.5 sacks from an interior position).
The Pack definitely needed the help: they fielded some of the worst Defensive Hogs in football that season: No. 22 overall on the DHI, No. 27 in run defense (surrendering 4.59 YPA) and No. 24 at Forcing Negative Pass Plays (8.60 percent of opponent dropbacks ended in a sack or INT).
With a weak unit up front, the Packers surrendered 380 points (No. 23 in scoring defense), the most by a Green Bay team since the dreadful 1986 campaign. The Pack quickly exited the playoffs with a 31-17 home loss to the Vikings in the wildcard round.
2005: Jenkins became more prominent in the Green Bay rotation, starting 12 games and playing all 16.
The D-Hogs improved noticeably as Jenkins' role increased, from No. 22 overall on the DHI in 2004 to No. 13 overall in 2005; from No. 27 in run defense to No. 18 (3.99 YPA); and from No. 24 at forcing Negative Pass Plays to No. 17 (9.68 percent).
The Packers as a team fell apart, though, dropping from 10-6 to 4-12. Don't blame the defense: Jenkins and the unit had improved in almost every measure (surrendering 21.5 PPG). They were handicapped by a certain "gunslinger" quarterback who threw 29 picks and whose late-game mistakes repeatedly cost his team a shot at victory.
2006: Jenkins started just five games, but the Green Bay defensive front continued to improve, largely behind a career year from Aaron Kampman (15.5 sacks).
The Pack finished No. 5 overall on the DHI thanks to a unit that was No. 3 at forcing Negative Pass Plays (12.01 percent) and No. 4 in third-down defense (32.89 percent).
2007: Jenkins emerged as a premier member of the Green Bay defensive front, starting all but one game. The Packers suddenly fielded its best defensive line in years: No. 3 overall on the Defensive Hog Index, No. 10 in run defense (3.88 YPA), No. 12 in forcing Negative Pass Plays (9.65 percent) and No. 3 in third-down defense (33.01 percent).
It was not a dominant unit, but it was solid across the board and Jenkins was a major player: he batted down nine passes, the most by a Green Bay defensive lineman since record-keeping began in 1980, according to Packers.com (Johnny Jolly surpassed that mark with 11 passes defended in 2009).
2008: Jenkins played just four games and the Packers defensive line suffered without him. It instantly dropped 11 spots on the Defensive Hog Index, to No. 14 overall, and the run defense simply fell apart, dropping from No. 10 in 2007 to No. 26 in 2008, allowing a dreadful 4.60 YPA on the ground.
The 2008 Packers allowed 23.8 PPG -- tying the 2004 Packers for Green Bay's worst defense since that bleak 1986 season. Both terrible defensive seasons came when Jenkins had his most limited roles.
2009: Jenkins was back -- and so was the Pack! He started all 16 games for the first time in his career, and the dramatically improved Defensive Hogs were a big reason for Green Bay's success.
Green Bay finished No. 1 at forcing Negative Pass Plays (11.61 percent), with Jenkins recording 4.5 sacks and 1 INT. The Packers were also No. 2 against the run (3.59 YPA) and No. 1 overall on the Defensive Hog Index -- the best defensive front in football, even while No. 1 pick B.J. Raji struggled to find playing time.
Most importantly, Green Bay's defense improved dramatically from the dreadful unit of 2008, to No. 7 league-wide in scoring (18.6 PPG).
Jenkins recorded a career-high 50 tackles and recorded three of the team's 11 forced fumbles.
2010: The past season may have been Jenkins' best yet. He missed five games, but he was highly productive when in the lineup.
Green Bay dropped to No. 10 overall on our Defensive Hog Index. But they were tied for second in the NFL with 47 sacks and topped the league in forcing Negative Pass Plays: 12.2 percent of opponent dropbacks ended in a sack or INT.
Most importantly, the Packers finished No. 2 in scoring defense (15.0 PPG), making it one of the best Green Bay defenses in the post-Lombardi Era.
The tried and true veteran Jenkins was a big part of that effort, with a career-high 7.0 sacks, the second most on the team (Clay Matthews, 13.5).
Jenkins may not be the best or most highly publicized defensive lineman in football. But he was clearly an impact player in Green Bay: the Packers defensive front was noticeably better when he was in the lineup. The team that acquires him can expect to be noticeably better, too.
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