Brandon Jenkins: From draft steal to roster long shot in one year

Ben Roethlisberger, London Fletcher, Brandon Jenkins

Brandon Jenkins, right, and London Fletcher deliver a hit on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a 2013 preseason game.

Between now and training camp, Mike Jones takes a closer look at players who find themselves competing for key roles this season, or are in position battles this preseason.

When they selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Redskins coaches described Florida State pass rusher Brandon Jenkins as a steal of a pick.

Jenkins had great size and ability, and despite having played defensive end in college, coaches believed he had the skill set to make the transition to outside linebacker. Injury his senior year caused Jenkins to slip in the draft, but Mike Shanahan & Co. proclaimed that had Jenkins been healthy, he would’ve gone in the second or third round.

Well, last season came and went, and Jenkins never showed the great potential coaches believe he had to offer. He played only a handful of snaps on defense, and struggled mightily during special-teams practice, and because of that, the Redskins couldn’t dress him. There was no use for a non-starter incapable of contributing on special teams.

Now as he enters his second NFL season, Jenkins appears to face long odds of making the roster.

Washington used their second-round pick (their top selection in this year’s draft) to take Stanford’s Trent Murphy, who plays the same position as Jenkins.

Already, Murphy has demonstrated an ability to learn quickly and contribute in a variety of ways on defense. During offseason practices, he lined up frequently with the first team and fellow outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Coaches rave about Murphy’s intelligence and drive.

● Related: More posts about Brandon Jenkins | About Trent Murphy | About outside linebackers

That could cause problems for Jenkins. Also ahead of him on the depth chart – at least for now – is Rob Jackson, who has now played in this system for four years, and played well as a starter when Orakpo has missed time.

Jenkins’s coaches haven’t given up hope, though. The addition of pass-rushing technician Brian Baker already has, and will continue to help, Jenkins’s development. He got off to a slow start during offseason practices. But by the time the final minicamp session wrapped up, Baker called him the most improved member of the linebacking unit.

Jenkins has a ways to go still, however. He must prove he can play well against the run, and also needs to become more fluid in pass coverage. He didn’t have many counter-moves last season, and that must change. More than anything – at least for the immediate future – Jenkins must show he can contribute on special teams. That’s the way he can get on the field most quickly.

The Redskins will likely carry eight linebackers, and possibly nine. Jenkins’s best hope is that nine is the number. Otherwise, he’ll have to try to beat out Rob Jackson by showing coaches that he has more upside while also coming at a slightly lower price.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Outsider: How Gruden might use trio of receivers

Snider: Training camp will tell a lot about Redskins

Bog: Fox almost hired Mike Shanahan to do games

Fancy Stats: Think twice before trading for Andre Johnson

More NFL coverage: Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Also on The Insider

How Jay Gruden might deploy DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts