We’ve reached the Final Four of the NFL season. Three of the four remaining teams have former Gators on their active rosters. The only team that doesn’t — the San Francisco 49ers — still has Janoris Jenkins on their practice team.
If you’ve followed and tracked a few different Gators sites, you might have noticed that unlike us here, some don’t track Jackrabbits NFL exploits.
Jenkins came to Gainesville as one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the country, a key figure in Urban Meyer’s 2008 recruiting class. Defensive backs coach Vance Bedford nicknamed him Jackrabbit earlier this season because he was always walking the field without really knowing what he should do. This nickname is one that Jenkins treasures to this day.
He instantly lived up to the recruiting hype, becoming only the second true freshman to start on the corner for Florida (Joe Haden was first). Jenkins was a key element of a defense that helped the Gators win their second national title in three seasons. He had three interceptions in that rookie campaign and was named to the College Football News All-Freshman team.
Jenkins played two more years at Gainesville, culminating in his 2010 junior season with All-SEC honors and a Rivals third-team All-American nod. After amassing eight interceptions — including a pick-six — and 121 tackles in 39 career games , Jenkins was close to entering the NFL draft. He decided to return for his senior season, but off-field problems thwarted those plans.
Will Muschamp was brought on in December 2010 and certainly his defensive reputation may have played a role in Jenkins’ decision to return. But after two arrests in three months for marijuana possession, Muschamp — who was hired in part to help clean up some of the Meyer-era lawlessness — felt he had little choice but to fire Jenkins. Jackrabbit finished his college career in North Alabama before being drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
When I first started following former Alligators in the league — first at Our Two Bits and now here at Alligator Army — I laid down some nebulous ground rules for handling transfers. If a player had a significant impact in Florida, and especially if most of his college production was for the Gators, I considered him a Gator. If someone played sparingly or rose to much greater heights at their new school, I didn’t feel like Gator Nation could claim them.
While I don’t think Florida’s athletic department has an official policy, they seem to be following something similar. For example, in last season’s Football Media Guide, Jenkins is listed in the “Gators in the NFL” section — along with others I’ve followed, like Jeff Driskel. Jacoby Brissett is not listed, nor have we followed him in this area.
Jenkins was a hekuva player in Gainesville and is one of the best former Gators to ever play in the NFL. His 27 career tips are held fourth by a former gator. He returned eight of those for touchdowns, incredibly eighth in league history. He is third among all active players with 124 career pass disconnects.
So as Jenkins is activated from the training squad This weekend—as it has been all postseason so far—Florida will be on every game on every team. And that means Florida will have a former player on the winning team for the 21st straight year and for the ninth time in the last 11 years.
Division Player of the Week
I keep writing that we are close to the full experience of Kadarius Toney. Then the Chiefs take us straight to the abyss…before they back down and not yet reveal the full Joka.
Despite still having a limited workload, Toney was tackled seven times last week, hauling in five catches and recording a rush for a total of 50 scrimmage yards. He was the only Kansas City player, aside from Travis Kelce, to have had more than two goals – and Toney only ran 12 routes!
KaDarius Toney played 20 snaps on Saturday
He has a target/touch on 8 of those snaps. 40% occupancy
Average Air Yards per Target: 1.1
KC’s response after the pat injury was to bring Toney Ball into space and flats and help generate a fast offense. Bet the pack will expand this week pic.twitter.com/25LmZL1vlR
— Nate Christensen (@natech32) January 27, 2023
As we saw in Gainesville, and as I’ve noticed here all season, Toney isn’t all fast and dodgy. He’s a terror that ends games. That power and blast almost got him into the end zone last week.
Kadarius Toney executing the option and dropping his shoulder to truck safety Rayshawn Jenkins is a thing of beauty (with Kelce working as a lead blocker). pic.twitter.com/E6D0aPcBia
— Adam Best (@Arrowhead_Adam) January 24, 2023
Division game of the week
The 2022 season’s interception leader didn’t make a pick in his first playoff game, but CJ Gardner-Johnson can take partial credit for teammate James Bradberry’s interception.
We’ve watched CJGJ do plays around Philadelphia all year and then let everyone know about it in a way only he can.
After the game, Ceedy Duce went live from the dressing room celebration. Part of that Celly? Giving head coach Nick Sirianni his Dream Chasers chain.
Not part of Celly? When his car was stolen.
CJ Gardner-Johnson had his car stolen in Philly today, according to IG Live: “I know exactly who stole my shit don’t worry we got y’all on camera. That’s how you come down in Philly… after a win?”pic.twitter.com/2gnNYgwTCr
— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) January 23, 2023
Great profile piece here about the lovable, boisterous, often misunderstood Gardner-Johnson.
“I’m here to win a Super Bowl. If you can’t stand this heat, get the fuck out of my way.”
Trash-speaking CJ Gardner-Johnson reinvented himself with the #Eagle. But security (slot) has always been super talented when misunderstood.
My story: https://t.co/9ClZ3OHzfC
—Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) January 21, 2023
Preview of the championship round
49ers with the Eagles
There is perhaps no more important player in the Eagles’ defense than Gardner-Johnson. The 49ers will look to control the game in midfield with powerful running play led by Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel and a quick pass attack on George Kittle and Samuel. CJGJ needs to be physical and attack downhill to limit yards after catches. The opportunity to lure rookie sensation Brock Purdy into some bad throws will also be present.
On the Niners page, I mentioned Jackrabbit earlier. With Ambry Thomas still battered, I expect Jenkins to see some action again in turn four and on special teams.
Bengal at Chiefs
Evan McPherson was perfect in the snow in Buffalo last week and should be full of confidence for Championship Sunday. He’s certainly hoping for a repeat of last year.
As I expected, Zach Carter’s snaps were cut last week when the Bengals played more nickels against Josh Allen. It will be interesting to see how this week unfolds given Patrick Mahomes’ ankle sprain. If the Chiefs commit to running the ball, Carter could see more rotation snaps.
For the Chiefs, Carlos Dunlap will have an opportunity to put some pressure on Joe Burrow against a battered Bengal offensive line. But that’s only if the Chiefs’ defensive game plan calls for him to take pressure off the edge every game.
After seeing all of Dunlap’s snaps last week, it seems to me that his main goal wasn’t to conquer the field. He takes a wider split, perhaps to give his Superstar teammate Chris Jones more room to act in the middle. And many times he’s broken his rush, serving as both a containment spy for the quarterback and a tall presence to try and knock down throws at the line of scrimmage.
On Sunday I’d expect more of a normal mix, with Dunlap going hard for Burrow but also serving as a batted pass specialist. After enjoying the first playoff win of his 13-year career, Dunlap will do whatever it takes to make the final step and get into the Super Bowl — even if earning a run by winning the team would be a sure bet turns off, with whom he has spent most of his career somewhat bittersweet.
Friday was Kadarius Toney’s 24th birthday. A Super Bowl berth was probably his first desire, closely followed by protection for someone’s ankle and maybe double-digit touches and a shot at his first touchdown of the season. I think the birthday girl will get at least some of those wishes – Mahomes will be fine and Toney will be a big part of the attack.
Here are all the stats from the divisional round (ordered and tiered by performance):
Divisional: 5 rec (7 targets), 36 yards, 1 rush, 14 yards, 3 PR, 7.7 average, 20 snaps (29%), 5 ST snaps (18%)
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S
Divisional: 3 tackles, 1 PD, 47 snaps (90%)
Divisional: 4 tackles, 49 snaps (65%)
Division: 61 snapshots (100%)
Division: 2/2 FG, Long 28, 3/3 XP
Divisional: 2 tackles, 25 snaps (41%), 3 ST snaps (11%)
Divisional: 5 tackles, 63 snaps (90%)
Divisional: 4 punts, 50.8 average
Divisional: 1 tackle, 16 snaps (25%), 2 ST snaps (9%)
Divisional: 3 snaps (5%), 16 ST snaps (64%)
- Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB
Divisional: 6 snaps (9%)
Divisional: 12 ST snaps (48%)
- Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
- Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
- La’Mical Perine, KC, RB