Two months after the non-interception heard around the country, M.D. Jennings finally reeled in his first “official” NFL pick during the Green Bay Packers’ 24-20 win over Detroit last Sunday.
The 72-yard interception returned for a touchdown was a key play in the win over the Lions and paramount for shifting momentum.
However, it also proved the strides the second-year safety has made since grabbing national attention in Week 3 with an apparent interception off Russell Wilson’s final hail-mary attempt during the Packers’ controversial 14-12 loss to Seattle.
Prior to playing the Seahawks, Jennings had fallen down the safety depth chart after a so-so training camp and rough showing in the Packers’ season-opener against San Francisco, giving way to rookie Jerron McMillian in the team’s sub-packages while veteran Charles Woodson continued to start in the base defense.
For the first month of the season, Jennings was used sparingly on defense before being reinserted in the secondary when Woodson came down with a broken collarbone on Oct. 21.
After starting the last four games, Jennings now has 27 tackles this season coupled with
the interception that turned out to be one of the biggest plays not only in the Packers’ victory last Sunday, but the season-to-date – a play coach Mike McCarthy himself ranks as one of his most exciting in nearly seven years in Green Bay.
Despite the slow start to his second professional season, the 24-year-old has quickly become a staple of the Packers’ secondary, which will be tested against today against the New York Giants and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning.
“After that week, we didn’t play him a whole lot and then all of a sudden he worked his way back,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “M.D.’s one of those guys who just keeps working, and he’s done a nice job with the physical part of the game and has had a couple of good games here in the last three or four weeks.”
Manning has struggled at times this season, especially on third down, but still benefits from the play-making receiving duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, along with an assortment of other offensive weapons.
Woodson, now 36 years old, is still on the road back from his collarbone injury, so it’s unknown what Jennings role would be when the eight-time Pro Bowler returns. Right now, he’s making the most of his chances while he has them.
“I think he’s just taking advantage of the opportunities,” Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said. “With a lot of young players, the more they play, the more reps they get, the more comfortable they become. He gained a certain level of confidence and I think that’s where he’s going right now. You see the confidence in that I think the game has slowed down for him and just really putting himself in a position to make plays and taking advantage of the opportunities.”