Jarvis Jenkins is back, just about anyway. The defensive ends rehabfollowing last Septembers right ACL surgery is in the past. Hismuch-anticipated deployment in the Redskins 3-4 defense for the first timeduring a regular season game is in the future. Getting his 6-foot-4, 309 lb body into game shape, staying energized andfootball-smart on consecutive plays. Those are the issues at hand for thesecond-year player during the ongoing spring practices. Worrying about living up to outside expectations or trying to make up forlost time on every single snap with chaotic effort are not.Im not going to be a one-man show, Im not going to be out trying to provethat Im the player everybody expects me to be, the Redskins 2011 second-roundpick said. Im not going to try and make plays that are not there for me tomake. Im going to try and make plays through the discipline of our defense.Disciplined is also a way to describe how Jenkins approached hispost-surgery work and fought through initial pangs of anxiety following hisfirst real injury.I was so anxious about being out 6-8 months, Im not going to be able toplay football, Jenkins said. I got out of that (mindset) quick because if youget depressed on yourself it will be even longer process to get back. So, Ijust blocked that out, did my rehab and got back.The work continues for Jenkins, who participated in individual and teamdrills on Thursday during the one OTA session media members could monitor thispast week. The Redskins training staff monitors and helps maintain strength inthe surgically repaired knee while the coaches put Jenkins and the otherplayers through the paces on the practice field. As he walked and talked with reporters after Thursdays practice, sweatpoured off the 24-year-olds head like Patrick Ewing in the fourth quarter ofan NBA playoff game.Weve been working the heck out of Jarvis to see if hes in footballshape, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. Hes got a little brace on hisknee, but hes been taking all the reps and doing extremely well so hopefullytheres no setback. Projected as a defensive end starter opposite Stephen Bowen, Jenkins statedconfidence wearing the knee brace. As for the mental and instinctive aspects,the former Clemson star admits, "when youre out of football for eightmonths, not really on the field playing, its going to take a little timegetting back into it."Overall, Jenkins declared, Im back to my old explosive self. With his pass-rushing skills joining aunit that alreadyboasts several quality options, the defensive line may be the deepest position on the roster. I think hes looking pretty good. Hes getting comfortable again, Adam Carrikersaid of his fellow defensive end. We got a lot of guys that can play. Thereare guys who wont be here during the season who could be here and on mostteams. I was looking around the room today; weve got 10 guys that can play.At this point, thats all Jenkins wants, to play in the regular season.Considering he has yet to play single snap when the games truly count, he wontquibble with those who refer to this upcoming campaign as another rookieseason.I played in three preseason games, but you know, thats not enough,Jenkins said. I didnt get the gristle of the actual NFL season. Preseason,theyre just seeing how guys react, bringing in other guys to see how they playin a game situations. When youre in season, thats when it really counts and Ihavent really experienced that yet."At this recovery pace, it sounds like he will soon enough.
Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has been named No. 1 on ProFootballFocus.com’s list of 20 “offseason additions likely to make an immediate impact.”
Norman was PFF’s top-rated corner based on QB rating allowed (54.0 percent) last season.
Overall, the football analytics website graded the 28-year-old as the game’s sixth best corner in 2015 (tied with Arizona's Patrick Peterson).
Norman, of course, signed a five-year, $75 million contract in Washington on April 22, just days after Carolina rescinded its franchise tag tender to the All-Pro corner. Now, he’s the Redskins’ best player on defense and, arguably, their best player on either side of the ball.
“[Norman] should be a dramatic upgrade in Washington,” PFF’s John Breitenbach concluded in an article posted Wednesday.
Breitenbach added: "New Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry improved the defense in 2015, but had an obvious hole in the secondary opposite Bashaud Breeland. Chris Culliver struggled last season, allowing a QB rating of 134.8 (surrendering four touchdowns on 35 targets)."
That hole, obviously, will be filled by Norman, who is set to start opposite Breeland, the 2014 fourth rounder who's coming off a breakout sophomore season.
Culliver, meantime, was released on May 2.
Norman’s new teammates, meanwhile, couldn’t be any more pumped about Norman's arrival.
"I was excited, just adding another piece to the defense," four-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams said recently. "It’s extremely tough to come [up with] good corners. So to get one of his caliber is extremely exciting."
Defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois added: "He’s going to help us a lot. I feel like a lot of quarterbacks won’t really try to throw at him. And if they do, they are going to have to gameplan him. Just to have a solid corner and [other] veterans in your secondary, that should make Joe B’s job a lot easier. He can call blitzes. He can man-up. I know a lot of people say we’re good [in] zone, but with a corner like that, you can man-up and send that front after somebody."
During the NFL’s interminable offseason, there are lists ranking anything and everything. If this one turns out to be correct, though, the Redskins' defense could make a significant leap in 2016.
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Although he’s already played half a season at safety, DeAngelo Hall anticipates taking a significant step forward in the coming months.
He’ll benefit from an entire offseason of first team reps at his new position, rather than attempting to master a new job on the fly, as he did late last season.
"I’m still learning some different things, but I’m having a blast," Hall said. "I enjoyed being able to get a little taste of it last year, and [now] starting from scratch this year."
Hall, 32, made the switch to safety last November in part because, well, he had to.
He had toyed with the idea of making the transition for a couple of years, but upon returning from toe injury in Week 10, the longtime corner found himself in need of a place to play with Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland entrenched as the starters.
And so, at long last, Hall officially began following in the footsteps of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Ronde Barber—all of whom made a successful, late-career pivot from corner to safety.
Indeed, after playing his first 11 seasons exclusively at corner, Hall played the final seven games of 2015, including the Wild Card loss to the Packers, at safety. Although the transition went as smoothly as possible, changing positions in the middle of the season, much less during a pressure packed playoff push, is never ideal.
Now, though, Hall’s finally getting the opportunity to really sink his teeth into his new role, which, he recently revealed, will feature a key tweak.
"I’m pretty comfortable," Hall said. "It’s a little different; last year, I played a little more strong than free, and this year I’ll play a little more free than strong. But in our defense you have to be able to do both. You have to be able to interchange. [The offense] can motion one guy, and the free safety becomes the strong safety and the strong safety becomes the free safety. You got to know them both. So, to say I’m free safety really doesn’t mean much because, like I said, one motion and I’m the strong safety in the defense."
During the only OTA practice open to the media last week, Hall, who is entering his ninth season in Washington, lined up as one first string safety. Newcomer David Bruton Jr., meantime, was the other. And while Bruton could face some competition, it's probably safe to pencil in Hall as a Week 1 starter.
"It’s been fun,” Hall said. "That’s probably the best word I can use."
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A year ago, Kirk Cousins spent the spring and summer months competing for a job on the Redskins’ roster.
This offseason, he’s working to refine his routine as the Redskins' starting quarterback.
And that work, he revealed recently, has included reaching out to current and former NFL quarterbacks and asking them about their approach to the seven months between games.
"Basically, I’m trying to figure that out still,” Cousins said. “I feel like I’m still in [that] process."
"I’ve called a few of the starting quarterbacks around the league, a few of the retired guys who had great careers," he added, "and just asked them what worked for them in the offseason."
Cousins didn’t specify which quarterbacks he’s called. But he didn’t need to. The simple fact that he’s consulting them is interesting. And telling, even for a guy known for his meticulous preparation. (Last December, Cousins said he parsed each day into 15-minute increments using a color-coded spreadsheet.)
So what did Cousins ask? A little bit of everything, from football to family.
"What was their rhythm in January, February, March?" Cousins said. "When they went back in April, May, June, what’s their rhythm? What’s their rhythm in the summer? How do they handle family? How do they balance travel and opportunities?"
Seeking information from vets who’ve handled one of the most pressure-packed jobs in sports is a wise move for the 27-year-old Cousins as he navigates his first offseason as the Redskins' most important player. Because in addition to facing increased pressure and scrutiny on the field in the coming months, there no doubt will be more people vying for Cousins’ time, as well.
More media appearances. More marketing opportunities. More, well, everything. Dealing with the increased pressure and blitz on his time will be paramount, and the fact that Cousins has gotten out in front of it all should help.
"I’m still figuring that out, so I don’t know that I have a great answer," he said. "I’m trying to get to a routine that works for me and my wife and our family. Once we start in mid-April and go ‘til mid-June, football’s a huge priority and I’m trying to get as much done here as I can."