As he nears the end of his first NFL regular season, the game finally has started to slow down for Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.
Sidelined by a torn ACL for all of the 2011 season — which was supposed to be his rookie campaign — the Clemson product has spent much of this year acclimating to the NFL and the defensive end position. But as the Redskins head toward the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Jenkins is coming off four of his best games, according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Of Jenkins’s 22 tackles this season, 10 have come in the past four weeks. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman recorded a season-high five tackles (three solo) in Washington’s Week 14 win over Baltimore. Last week against Philadelphia, the Clemson product was more disruptive than he had been much of the year, pressuring the quarterback, clogging running lanes and recording a tackle for a loss.
“I think he’s gotten progressively better every game,” Haslett said. “I thought he played one of his better games last week. The last two weeks he’s played exceptionally well. He’s gotten after the passer, played well against the run.”
Jenkins’s recent form more closely resembles what the Redskins envisioned when they selected him with the 41st pick of the 2011 draft. Jenkins had a strong training camp and first two preseason games but then tore his ACL and was lost for the year.
Fully recovered by the start of the 2012 training camp, Jenkins was projected as a swing end who could relieve starters Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen. But when Carriker, the left end, tore his right quadriceps in the second game of the season, Jenkins was thrust into a larger role. He has had his ups and downs but has developed greater consistency in the second half of the season.
He has been part of an improved defensive unit that has forced multiple turnovers and recorded multiple sacks in three straight games.
“He’s gotten better as the season has gone along,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “I think a lot of it has to do with this still being his rookie year, with him coming off the injury. You’ve got to get through that mental part of it. But I’ve seen him take it more seriously, what his responsibility is, and letting it play out. . . . You can tell he’s taking what he’s seeing in the film room onto the field.”
Jenkins said the key to his improvement has been more mental than physical.
“It’s learning how to study and applying,” Jenkins said. “. . . People like London Fletcher, he always calls out, like we’re in the game, ‘It’s a draw, it’s a draw.’ And I talk to him and I’m like, ‘How do you know that’s coming?’ And he said, ‘You have to trust yourself. And if you’re going to mess up, mess up full-speed.’ I learned that in the game last Sunday. It’s going to be a process, but I’m definitely catching on, and you can see I’m getting comfortable.
“It feels good, man,” Jenkins added. “I know people have been waiting on it, like, ‘When is this guy going to step up?’ . . . Being a defensive lineman, you need to be dominant all the time. That’s what I'm working on now.”