Defensive Tackles Specialize In Blocking Kicks


Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins can block kicks but not because of his outstanding vertical leap.

"If jumping ability had something to do with it," said defensive tackle Colin Cole, who lines up next to Jenkins on field goal defense, "we wouldn't have any blocks. That's got nothing to do with it."

Jenkins, though, has a knack for blocking kicks. On Sunday the 6-3, 290-pounder deflected a 51-yard field goal attempt by Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed at the start of the fourth quarter. It marked the third time he got his hands on a kick this year, including two blocked extra points attempts earlier this season.

Jenkins has a skill at heading up field, turning his hips and working to raise his hands up. The second year defensive tackle, however, modestly credits the players lining up beside him for his own success.

"It's just coming off hard and getting a great push by my teammates," Jenkins said. "I need more teamwork to help get through."

Cole was the teammate who helped him the most. Jenkins lined up over the Steelers deep snapper Greg Warren while Cole overpowered Steelers guard Chukky Okobi. Jenkins then torqued his body into the cleared gap and raised his arm to deflect the ball with his palm. Both players exploded off the line of scrimmage.

Cole and Jenkins try to take advantage of the offensive guard's step. If he needs to take a step to protect that inside, they attack him in that vulnerable position.

"If you catch him while he's got that foot in the air," Cole said. "he doesn't have a good base."

If the guard does firmly place his foot down, as Okobi did on Sunday, the Packers try to overpower him.

Sunday's deflection would have counted as a block, but the football never passed the line of scrimmage. According to NFL statistics, a blocked kick must do so.

Jenkins' brother Kris is a defensive tackle and also has shown an affinity on special teams, blocking three kicks in 2003 -- the last year he played more than four games. So it's a genetic gift within the Jenkins family, right?

Cullen disagrees. He said his 6-4, 335-pound brother, a Pro Bowler in 2003, uses his size to block kicks.

"He's different," he said. "He's just big and he just blows stuff up. He just barrels through people."

Although Cole joked about the interior players' leaping ability, Cullen has superior athletic skills for a defensive lineman. An all-conference athlete at Belleville (Mich.) High School, Jenkins ran the 100-meter dash and 300-meter hurdles.

Combine that agility and speed with the stoutness of the 6-2, 335-pound Cole, and the duo should make plays on special teams the rest of the year.

"We've been doing it all year," Cole said. "We can continue with it."

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