RICHMOND – The wakeup call came in the form of a 6-foot-6, 300-plus-pound Pro Bowl pass rusher and his four-year, $27.5 million pay day.
“Okay, they want a defensive lineman and they want a pass rusher,’ ” Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins told himself in response to his team rolling out the red carpet for Jason Hatcher. “That obviously means I’m not getting it done.”
Jenkins’s assessment was correct.
The 41st overall pick of the 2011 draft, Jenkins (6-4, 315) was supposed to develop into that disruptive force in the trenches for Washington. A torn anterior cruciate ligament cut short his impressive rookie preseason, and cost him all of the regular season. Jenkins showed promise when pressed into starting duty the following year. But he didn’t get any better the following year. After missing four games because of a suspension for taking a banned performance enhancing substance, Jenkins returned to action but had just a ho-hum year (only 22 tackles and two sacks).
“I got complacent,” he said. “I was the starter, but I was just the starter. I made plays, and I took plays off, and made a play and took more off.”
Hatcher wasn’t the only defensive end getting paid this offseason. The Redskins also re-signed Chris Baker to a three-year $9 million contract with plans of starting him at left end – Jenkins’s old starting spot – opposite Hatcher. Jenkins, meanwhile, was entering the final year of his contract and having to fight for a roster spot.
Listening to Jenkins talk, and based on his play in the past three practices down here at training camp, it’s evident that he finally got the message. He has won more one-on-one matchups than lost during drills, and during 11-on-11 portions of practice, he has looked explosive, disruptive and angry as he has pushed offensive linemen around, gotten to the quarterback and laid out running backs.
“Main thing is, man, I’ve got to live up to what I was drafted to,” Jenkins said. “I got hurt my rookie year, did okay the next year, third year was average and I had the suspension. I’ve got to show it. I’ve got to show these guys I can play football, and that’s why I’ve got to come with an extra fire under my [butt]. I’ve got to prove it, and being average ain’t going to prove it. Looking like the other guys isn’t any good. I’ve got to stand out.”
While drawing on the Hatcher signing as motivation, Jenkins also has used the ninth-year pro as a resource. Hatcher frequently shares knowledge with his younger defensive linemen, and Jenkins has tried to soak up as much as possible. Hatcher opened camp on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from a knee scope, and Jenkins has received the chance to start in his place. While not practicing, Hatcher has offered advice and tips.
“Hatch is very motivational,” Jenkins said. “He’s showing me so much. That’s why he’s a Pro Bowler. He’s rubbing off on all of these guys on this defensive line.”
Jenkins feels free mentally this training camp. He knows what’s at stake, and so his goal is simple.
“Now there are no distractions,” he said. “My second year, I came in and they wondered how my knee was going to be, and then the next year, they wanted to know how I was going to react to the suspension. Now, I’m coming in with a fresh start and all I’m thinking about is football and being a dominant player.
“I’ve got to be the guy that they drafted: that dominant player every play,” he added. “The sky is the limit for me. I’ve got the body, and I’ve got the speed. I just have to show it.”
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
Washington is off Tuesday; the next practice is 8:35 a.m. Wednesday. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.
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