A man must possess certain physical attributes in order to turn another man into a blocking sled. Power and quickness are the most important, and Washington Redskins rookie Jarvis Jenkins has both.
That much was clear during training camp earlier this week when Jenkins, a defensive end drafted in the second round, squared off against second-year offensive lineman Erik Cook in one-on-one blocking drills. Jenkins exploded off the snap and drove Cook backwards with little resistance.
Coach Mike Shanahan was standing nearby. “Love the power! Love the power!” he cheered.
Such displays by Jenkins have been common during the past week. If there’s such thing as a training camp stud before players don shoulder pads and the full squad joins practice, he is it. At the very least, the Redskins have positive first impressions about the player they recently drafted 41st overall.
“I like him,” Shanahan said. “He’s quite impressive —  pounds; he’s played the run; he’s played the pass. You can tell he’s got a big upside. You can tell he likes to work. All the things you look for in a guy, you can tell he has.”
Jenkins garnered attention playing with the first-string defense while leagues rules prevented free agent Stephen Bowen from practicing until Thursday afternoon. He consistently has pushed the left side of the Redskins’ offensive line into the backfield on running plays during team drills.
When he stays low coming out of his stance, his effectiveness is unmistakable. Honing that technique has been his top priority.
“I’ve got to come out with my hips,” Jenkins said. “I’ve got to use more legs. I’ve got to get good leverage on these guys and get my hands inside. That’s the main thing to being powerful.”
The nature of the defensive end position allows Jenkins, who stands 6-foot-4, to focus more on technique instead of learning plays. New players at other positions, especially receivers, are cramming to learn their numerous routes and assignments in time for next week’s preseason opener. A lineman’s responsibilities in the Redskins’ defense are simple by comparison.
Jenkins is learning technical lessons that apply to the differences between the Redskins’ three-man front and the concepts he followed at Clemson, where he played on three-man and four-man lines.
In Clemson, he was “more going into a gap,” Jenkins said. “Right now, when I’m at end, I’ve got to play a man. It’s kind of working together as a defense. Everybody has a man, so that’s what I had to change to.”
“Technique-wise is the stuff he’s just got to keep working on and making sure he’s cleaning up,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett added. “He’s a big, strong, powerful kid. I think once he gets his footwork and technique down, he’ll fit into the defense fine.”
Left tackle Trent Williams attested to that. He and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger have had their hands full with Jenkins during team drills.
Jenkins consistently beat the left side of the offensive line in Tuesday’s practice. It wasn’t until one of the final plays that Williams drove him about five yards into the defensive backfield.
“One thing I like about Jarvis is that he gets better every play,” Williams said. “He learns from his mistakes. Every play it is getting harder and harder to block him.”
Jenkins is one of several players the Redskins acquired during the offseason because of how their talents fit into a 3-4 alignment. After shoehorning personnel assembled to run a 4-3 into a 3-4 alignment in Shanahan’s first season, the Redskins identified an extensive list of needs.
Jenkins is powerful enough to set the edge in the run game and collapse the pocket in passing situations. The Redskins’ starting ends last season, Kedric Golston on the right side and Adam Carriker on the left, struggled in both areas. Haslett this season plans on starting Carriker on the left again with Bowen on the right. He wants Jenkins to be able to substitute on both sides.
“Scott Campbell [Redskins director of player personnel] did a great job and his staff of targeting the guys that fit this defense,” Haslett said. “He’s ideal for it. He’s a big human being. He’s very coachable. He likes to work.
“Everything you’re looking for at that position, he fits it well.”