The Washington Redskins didn’t have a second-round selection in this year’s draft, having packaged it in the bounty for the No. 2 overall pick. But you could argue that Washington had a second-round draft pick in the bag - defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.
His return to good health could dampen the sticker shock in landing Robert Griffin III.
Jenkins participated Monday in his first full-speed, 11-on-11, drills since tearing the ACL in his right knee last preseason. A black brace was the only reminder of the fateful play Aug. 25 against Baltimore, when he tried to change directions while pursuing halfback Ray Rice and heard a loud pop.
Jenkins was moving up in everyone’s eyes before his injury, impressing coaches and teammates with his power and speed. There was talk that he might have been the team’s best defensive lineman in camp, and he figured to play a prominent role in his first year out of Clemson. At 6-feet-4 and 309 pounds, he had everything the Redskins wanted along their defensive front.
If there’s a positive side to every situation, including a blown knee, Jenkins has found it. Although he couldn’t bear to watch practice during the season, because it pained him so much, he attended all the team meetings and film sessions. He soaked up the coaches’ comments as they critiqued his teammates. He memorized their mistakes and took mental notes on the corrections.
Now he recognizes plays, formations and offensive linemen’s tricks much quicker than a year ago, when he was “a rookie running around with my head chopped off.” But he didn’t just improve mentally during his long rehabilitation. Since he couldn’t work out on his lower body for a few months, he spent extra time increasing his strength from the waist up.
“My bench press is higher than it’s ever been,” Jenkins said. “Coaches can tell that I got stronger. Coming out of the combine I did 19 [repetitions] at 225 pounds. Now I can do 225 pounds like 32 times. It was a real blessing just to focus on getting my upper body strong.”
He couldn’t focus on anything except his disappointment at first. But once he stopped feeling down, he rehabbed with a vengeance. Jenkins would arrive at the facility at 7 a.m. for treatment and then attend meetings from 8-11. When the team hit the field, he’d hit the weights and rehab some more until going home at 1 p.m.
Jenkins said the routine “got kind of old,” but it paid off. “They gave me some treatment stuff to do at home,” he said. “I might take a nap, wake up and do more rehab on my knee. I did a lot of self-rehab, and that’s why I got back so fast.”
A huge assist goes to his brother Johnny Bradley, who stayed with Jenkins for four months after the injury. The family had planned to visit and attend for the Redskins‘ final preseason game, against Tampa Bay. They arrived from South Carolina on a Saturday - two days after the Baltimore game. His brother didn’t make the return trip.
“I couldn’t drive for a month or two so he hauled me around after my surgery,” Jenkins said. “He had to bring my food upstairs. It was just hard for me. When I got back on my feet, he went home. I thank him for that.”
The entire organization should send a thank you card. There’s no question that a healthy Jenkins will be a significant boost for the defense.
“Having him as part of the D-line rotation is going to be a strength for us,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “It’s like adding another draft pick this year.”