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Jansen returns—but is he back?

Jansen returns—but is he back?

In today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, there is a Paul Woody article about Washington Redskins tackle Jon Jansen. At the top, there is a four-column black and white picture of Jansen lying on the FedEx Field turf in agony right after a tangle in a pile resulted in him sustaining a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. His 2007 season ended less than 30 minutes after it started.

Woody's article talks about the two major injuries from which Jansen has had to recover since 2004, when a preseason Achilles tendon tear put him on the shelf for all of that season. Woody writes about Jansen's family life (he has two young daughters) and his offseason activities (he appeared on ESPN and wrote for The Sporting News).

He mentions the 2008 preseason only briefly, saying that "the Redskins' front five have been playing well in the preseason. They're protecting quarterback Jason Campbell and providing openings for the running game."

I'd have to say that the dean of Redskins beat writers is nine-tenths right here. All five starters have been doing well in run blocking, opening holes for whichever running back is handed the ball. Four of the five are doing a decent job of pass protection. The exception to the latter is Jon Jansen.

In the four series in which he has played, two in each of his team's games so far, Jansen has struggled in pass protection. He has wound up getting pushed back well into the backfield on several occasions. Against the Bills he was flagged for holding. In the Hall of Fame game a Colts defensive end not named Dwight Freeney pushed him around.

His problems have not been limited to the preseason games. Jansen has had some embarrassing moments in practice as well. Earlier this week Jason Taylor threw him to the ground as though Jansen were some sort of tackling dummy.

This has led to Jansen becoming a whipping boy on some message boards and blogs. He's too old and injury prone, they say. Jason Campbell won't survive September if they don't do something. Get rid of him and a kid like Chad Reinhardt or Stephon Heyer and chance.

To address the last part first, Jansen isn't going anywhere. He signed a contract extension prior to last season that would make releasing him very costly in terms of the 2009 salary cap.

Is he too old? No, 32 is not ancient for an offensive lineman by any means. Is he injury prone? Well, it's hard to argue that a player who has missed virtually all of two of the last four seasons is the picture of health. However, you also can make the case that the two injuries were the result of horribly bad luck, not of an inherent fragility in Jansen's physical makeup.

In any case, the Redskins are going to put him out there and see what happens. His struggles could be the result of him trying to knock of the rust that has accumulated as a result of missing last year. If that's the case, he should round into form by the time the season starts.

That brings up the question of what "form" for Jon Jansen is at this stage of his career. In his first few years in the league he was among the best tackles in the game with the Redskins' mediocre records costing him Pro Bowl spots. For the past few years, however, even when healthy, the general consensus is that he's been average at best.

Right now, Jansen has some work to do to get up to being average.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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