Malcolm Jenkins' message to young Eagles

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia
NBC Sports Philadelphia
<p>Malcolm Jenkins has been in this spot before and he has&#160;a simple message for his young teammates in their first playoff game. By Reuben Frank</p>

Malcolm Jenkins' message to young Eagles

Malcolm Jenkins has been in this spot before and he has a simple message for his young teammates in their first playoff game. By Reuben Frank

Malcolm Jenkins knows what his young teammates are going to experience Saturday.

He knows they're all dying to make a huge play. To win the game. To be Superman.

He's been there himself. And his message to them is to supress that desire and just go play football the way you have all year.

"It's something I struggled with as a young player, going out there and wanting to make one of those big plays," Jenkins said this week.

"You watch the games last weekend and see the (Marcus) Mariota play and (Jalen) Ramsey and his interception and you think, 'I want to make those plays.' But in all actuality, you have to put yourself in position to make those plays and the way you do that is the basics. 

"It's good technique, it's eye discipline, it's tackling, it's being around the ball, it's communicating, and those plays come. The differences in these games are usually the mistakes. Missing a field goal, penalties, not doing your assignment, blowing a coverage, missing tackles. 

"These games usually come down to who makes the most mistakes or who makes the last mistake, and it's been important for us to keep relaying to the guys, especially the young guys, that it's the same game. 

"The things that win football games in the preseason are the same things that win games in the postseason. Taking away the football. Running the ball. Stopping the run. The energy's going to be there because we have our backs against the wall, it's win or go home, so the energy's going to be there regardless. But we've got to focus on the small things."

More than half the players on the Eagles' active roster - 29 of 53 players -  have never dressed for a playoff game. Only four of today's projected starters has played in more than two postseason games. 

This team has a handful of playoff savvy guys -  Jenkins, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Graham, Brent Celek -  but it's largely a young, inexperienced team.

"It took me till my … what year was it … probably till my fifth year to kind of really figure it out," Jenkins said. 

"My rookie year I was just out there. I didn't even have time to even know anything about the game. That was 2009, just out there doing my own thing. In 2010 I was hurt and missed the playoffs. In 2011 we played the Lions at home and it was my first time starting in the playoffs and I played terrible. I played horrible. 

"Followed it up the next week and played OK in San Francisco, but I watch those two games and it was like I wasn't doing any of the small things right. Wasn't focusing on technique, my eye placement wasn't in the right place, I wasn't tackling with my arms, and it hurt me. 

"The next opportunity I got was in 2013 and I played significantly better. I wasn't trying to make plays, I was just making the ones that came. Played solid ball and had more success. It took me a while to learn that lesson, but it's important."

So that's been Jenkins' strongest message this week to the rookies, the guys without playoff experience.

There's more at stake today, when the Eagles face the Falcons at the Linc with a berth in the NFC Championship Game up for grabs. 

But in the end it's just another football game. Treat it that way.

"It's something you can tell them and it goes into the way you practice," he said. "'Hey, it's the same game, man. If you weren't excited three weeks ago when we played the Raiders in the same fashion, then there's something wrong.'

"It's the same game. Every win matters. Every game matters. Obviously what's on the other end of this either hurts a lot more or feels a lot better but at the end of the day it's the same game, so we're preparing to win and we don't need to do anything out of the norm, we don't need to freak out or get over-excited. Just focus on the small things. 

"Nobody needs to be Superman. We haven't had any Supermen all year. Except Carson sometimes. But everybody else has just done their job and it's been enough. We've won as a team and that's the formula for us to win moving forward."

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