- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.
Why he has something to prove: Because he hasn’t fulfilled expectations and because the Redskins have more depth at his position, putting him in a situation where he must earn playing time. Also, he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Redskins need him to help because they have four potential linemen who will be 30 years or older, three of whom had offseason surgery. Washington signed Jason Hatcher in the offseason and likes how Chris Baker has developed. They also signed Clifton Geathers, but he didn’t show a whole lot this spring. He’s tall, but often plays that way and loses leg strength. Jenkins is a better player against the run. He has improved at taking on double teams, occupying blockers and playing the two-gap style (Washington is not abandoning this, but will also use one-gap at times. The Redskins have done this in the past in nickel situations). Jenkins needs to be strong against the run first and foremost and if he is, then he’ll continue to help. Before hurting his knee as a rookie, Jenkins looked terrific and showed an ability to make plays behind the line. However, he was also raw and too often got himself out of position because he’d get too upright trying to look and find the ball. Eventually, teams would have exploited this tendency in the regular season. But his talent was evident.
What he must do: Again, stop the run. The Redskins’ pass rush will be helped by offenses forced to pass. If the Redskins can’t stop the run, then opposing offenses will dictate everything. Jenkins can still help here. But he must help more in nickel situations. As of now, he’s behind players such as Hatcher, Baker and Barry Cofield in this role (when they use their fast nickel with three outside linebackers, that is). Jenkins worked last offseason on taking a bigger step when rushing; too often in the past he’d take a baby step or still a more lateral step. Stephen Bowen, for example, would take two steps to get to where it Jenkins took three. Jenkins typically does not do much more than try to drive his man back; don't see a lot of rip or swim moves from him.
Projection: Reserve end. Baker has worked as the starting left end in camp, though Jenkins could play either side. Baker also is a bigger threat in the pass game. Baker has improved at recognizing blocks -- a big deal here -- but if he gets too consumed with penetration all the time then Jenkins could be more of an answer against the run. If there’s concern about Hatcher’s durability, then they could use Jenkins in a bigger role on run downs (again: his strength). He’s still one of their top six defensive linemen; he’s younger and healthier. All of that matters.