Jim Zorn has pushed all the right buttons during the Washington Redskins’ four-game win streak.
His play calling is refreshing and the entire team feeds off his energy and creativity.
His work with Jason Campbell has turned the quarterback into a consistent passer.
And his never-panic attitude was displayed by not chucking the game plan down 14-0 against the Eagles or whacking rookie punter Durant Brooks (although that leash has tightened).
But when it comes to right tackle Jon Jansen, Zorn is on the verge of being 0-for-2.
The first mistake Zorn made with Jansen wasn’t that he benched the veteran before the regular-season opener in favor of Stephon Heyer, but the breakdown in communication that led to Jansen finding out about the potential switch from the media.
When Heyer wrenched his shoulder against Arizona, Jansen got a second chance and has performed well.
The Redskins won at Philadelphia and at Dallas.
The Redskins gave up only three sacks in 63 Campbell drop backs.
The Redskins rushed for 364 yards.
“I’m very pleased with how I’ve played and I’m pleased I’ve been able to add something that’s tangible and something noticeable to the offense,” Jansen said.
Zorn’s second mistake would be reinserting Heyer, who pass protected efficiently but struggled with run blocking during the first three games.
Handed three chances to endorse Jansen on Monday, Zorn wouldn’t budge, making it apparent that Heyer will get his job back.
Question No. 1: “Given the way the line has blocked the last couple weeks and Jon Jansen has been in there and a part of it, would you consider keeping him in there? Has he done enough to keep the job?”
Zorn: “Has he done enough? He has filled that position very well, hasn’t he? I just have to wait and see what’s going on with Stephon Heyer. I’m still hoping he can return and he can step back in. But I’m certainly not disappointed at all … Jon Jansen has played very well in the last two games.”
(A compliment to Jansen but basically an admission that Heyer is still the guy.)
Question No. 2: “Is some of the balance in the running game attributed to [Jansen] that wasn’t there the first couple weeks?”
Zorn: “I don’t think it’s one guy and I know Jon wouldn’t say that either. It’s a combination of the whole group. It really starts with Casey Rabach. It truly starts with him. He has to get us going in the right direction and have the no-nonsense attitude. And then Randy Thomas and Pete [Kendall] next to him … I’ll tell you who had a great football game - Chris Samuels. He had a great, great game. He put some people on his back and played like an All Pro.”
(Yikes. The Redskins didn’t bother running to the right side in Weeks 1-3. Now they’re excelling on left and right stretch plays but Zorn distances himself from that topic by praising Rabach and Samuels.)
Question No. 3: “With Jansen, is he doing things the last two games that he wasn’t doing in the preseason, which forced your hand to go with Heyer?”
Zorn: (Pause) “Not really. He wants it bad. But I think he wanted it bad before. He wasn’t being punished. We felt like Stephon Heyer was the guy that could give us more solid protection in the passing game and I still think that.”
(Uh-oh for Jansen. Zorn’s preference from the right tackle spot is obviously pass protection first, run blocking second.)
“It would be tough [to go back to the bench],” Jansen said. “I’m very happy I got the opportunity to play against very good defenses and good players and I wasn’t going out against marginal players. I went against very good defenses. It shows on the field, it shows on the film and it shows on the stats.”
Examining the last two games shows that Jansen has held his own in protection.
Dallas’ Greg Ellis pushed Jansen back with a power rush early in the game but that was his only noticeable win against Jansen.
Philadelphia’s Juqua Thomas had occasional success with bull rushes that got Jansen on his heels, but unlike in the preseason, he remained on his feet. Unofficially, Jansen allowed one quarterback pressure.
“Jon fitting right back in is a great fit for us,” Rabach said. “The only question Coach Z had was his pass protection ability and he’s proven over the last two weeks he’s healthy and can get it done and is playing at a high level.”
Jansen was stunned last month when he lost his starting position, a job he held since coming to the Redskins in 1999. Now nothing will surprise him.
“That’s up for the coaches to make that decision,” he said. “I’m going to take every opportunity to prove that I should be the guy.”
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