- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The old Jarvis Jenkins -- or, better yet, the younger one -- created noise early in his first camp. He lived in the backfield, it seemed, and coaches couldn’t wait to see what he’d do when he knew how to play. Then came the knee injury. Then came a few years searching for the 2011 Jenkins.
That’s the guy the Washington Redskins would like to see. After the past two years of making few impact plays, the Redskins could use more from Jenkins.
“My main focus is showing what I can do and getting back to that Jarvis Jenkins 2011 rookie year preseason that everyone is talking about,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins started the past two seasons at left end, taking over when Adam Carriker was lost for the 2012 season. But he’s behind Chris Baker at left end this summer. And once Jason Hatcher is healthy, he’ll start on the right side (where the injured Stephen Bowen resided and where Jenkins can play).
It also happens to be a contract year for the former second-round pick, which he calls one motivator but not his main focus.
“If that’s why you’re motivated, that’s the wrong reason,” he said. “I have to be motivated to get my spot back. I have to be motivated to push those guys.”
Last year Jenkins entered camp optimistic after working on a stronger first step. That optimism was blunted in part by a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
As a rusher, in the past he’d shuffled his feet too much and would take three steps to get to where another lineman would need two. But it only resulted in 1.5 sacks (his career high).
This summer, he has had a good camp -- though a bit inconsistent -- and has done more collapsing the pocket in practice. He even did so once against New England, helping Brian Orakpo record a sack.
Jenkins said it helps that he notices formations quicker and knows tendencies more than in the past. When former Redskins lineman Carriker had his best season in 2011, he said it stemmed from the same thing: understanding formations and anticipating plays.
“When you’re familiar with formations you can trust what you do and how you react when the ball is snapped,” Jenkins said. “The main thing is to trust yourself. If you go with a move you have to stick with it to the end of the snap.”
Also, Hatcher has worked with Jenkins on using his hands. Sometimes he’ll walk past Jenkins and put a hand on his shoulder.
“And I’ll smack it off,” Jenkins said. “It’s just a reaction and if I do it a lot and then when I get in a game I don’t have to think about it. I just do it.”
If it translates into success in a game, the Redskins would be happy. He has a lot to prove, having gone from rookie flash to a guy missing his first season and then getting suspended last season. He has been known for anything but his play.
He knows it’s time to show what he can do.
“I was at that point last year,” Jenkins said. “A lot of adversity. … It’s like a fresh start for me and I have to take advantage of it. When I came in as a rookie, I was playing with my head cut off and I wasn’t worried about nothing. I was just going. That’s what they’re trying to preach to me: Just go. That’s what I’m doing. I’m more comfortable with the defense. I know my assignments. It’s easier for me to go on the field without thinking about it.”
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Jenkins has looked good, but not all the time -- like in practice against New England when Jenkins struggled when the Patriots ran their hurry-up offense.
“He’s had his days where he’s really done well, he’s excited us and he’s had his days where he looked like he was a little lethargic or maybe out of shape like when New England came to town,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “I challenged him and he’s taken it personally and in the last four or five practices he’s done extremely well. He’s one of those guys we have to get production from. He’s got the ability, we just have got to try to consistently get him rolling and so far he’s on the right tack.”