When the Washington Redskins took Jarvis Jenkins with the 41st overall pick of the 2011 draft, they envisioned the Clemson product wreaking havoc along their 3-4 defensive front.
A bear of a man, Jenkins stands 6 feet 4, weighs 309 pounds and boasts 331 / 4-inch-long arms. He has the blend of strength, size, quickness and versatility that defensive coordinators crave.
It didn’t take long for Jenkins to begin making his presence felt. He worked his way into the defensive line’s top rotation, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett last summer declared Jenkins was having the most impressive training camp of any lineman.
But Jenkins’s 2011 campaign came to a halt almost as quickly as it started. In the third game of the preseason, on a slippery, rain-soaked field at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, the defensive tackle tore his ACL while pursuing Ray Rice as the running back cut back on a run.
Jenkins had surgery shortly after he incurred the injury and missed the season. Nine months later, he has returned to the field for offseason practices and is trying to pick up where he left off.
Jenkins wears a small brace on his right knee, but his power and explosiveness have returned. So have the expectations.
“He’s a big kid, athletic, can make plays for us and rushes the passer,” inside linebacker London Fletcher said. “He worked hard. He rehabbed hard. . . . For us, having him now as part of the D-line rotation is only a strength for us. It’s like adding another draft pick this year.”
Said linebacker Brian Orakpo: “He looks great. He’s full strength now. He’s making plays and I’m excited to play next to him.”
Jenkins said he feels great, but concedes that he isn’t completely back to his old self. He continues to work to regain his stamina and football instincts.
Throughout his recovery last fall, Jenkins trained at Redskins Park and attended all the defensive line meetings so he could continue to learn the team’s system. That has helped, but growing pains are understandable, he said.
“When you’re out of football for eight months — not really on the field playing — it’s going to take a little bit of time to get back into it,” Jenkins said. “I’m focusing on getting more in football shape, playing plays back-to-back and learning not to make mistakes when I’m tired. . . . Honestly, it’s like having another rookie season. I played three [preseason] games, but that’s not enough. I didn’t get the gristle of the full NFL season.”
Jenkins received full clearance for all football-related action on April 11, five days before Washington’s offseason conditioning program began. He attacked the training regimen with a vengeance.
Two weeks ago, the team began organized team activities (OTAs) — full-squad, pad-free practices — and Jenkins hasn’t experienced any limitations so far.
Fellow defensive end Stephen Bowen is rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery and has trained on the side during OTAs. Left end Adam Carriker was held out of last Thursday’s practice because of blisters on his heels.
Those absences have afforded Jenkins the opportunity to take on a heavy workload. On Thursday, Jenkins took snaps at both left and right end in the team’s base packages and played tackle in Washington’s nickel defense.
“We’ve been working the heck out of Jarvis to see if he’s in football shape,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s got a little brace on his knee, but he’s been taking all the reps and doing extremely well, so hopefully there’s no setback.”
The Redskins expect Jenkins’s addition to give them a very deep, formidable defensive end rotation.
The plan is for Jenkins to rotate in and out with Carriker and Bowen, who are coming off very strong seasons.
Bowen had 41 tackles and six sacks; Carriker had 34 tackles and 51 / 2 sacks.
Haslett wants to ensure that his linemen remain fresh and effective throughout games.
“He’ll help us a lot. He gives us a lot of depth on that D-line,” said Orakpo, who believes that Jenkins’s presence also will help prevent offensive linemen from keying on him as much. “He gives us that ability and strength that he possesses. You guys saw what he did last preseason. I felt like he was going to be a great force for us. . . More sacks, more big plays. More run-stopping help, and it’s really going to benefit our defense as far as it taking that next step.”
Jenkins said he aims to fulfill the expectations heaped on him, but won’t let them create pressure on him.
“If my teammates are expecting me to be a player, then I’ve got to be it,” Jenkins said. “That makes me more accountable, making sure I do what I have to do every rep, because these guys are counting on me to do my job.”
“But, I’m not going to be a one-man show,” he added. “. . . I’m not trying to go make plays that aren’t there. I’m just going to make the plays through the discipline of our defense.”