COMMENTARY | The much maligned Washington Redskins defense will get a boost this week with the return of defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and outside linebacker Rob Jackson. If anyone is expecting either player to turn things around for this defense, however, they need to lower their expectations.
Both players were suspended four games for violations of the NFL's drug policy and have yet to play this season. While both can contribute, neither could be called a key player.
Since being drafted by the Redskins in 2011, Jenkins has played in only 16 games and started 14. He missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL and became a starter in 2012 after Adam Carriker tore a quad tendon in his right leg. He started for the rest of the season, recording 25 combined tackles.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett expects Jenkins to start when he returns, but according to the rules of his violation, he was not able to have any contact with the team until just last week. It is not as if he had an extra week of practice either as he was able to practice only once before the team left for the bye week. Can he really be ready to start against Dallas by October 13 after only one full week of practice?
Even Jenkins himself, though confident he will start, was hesitant to say he was in football shape.
"It'll take a couple days, but I'll be ready for the Dallas game," Jenkins said. A 'couple days' to get back into football shape sounds a bit optimistic.
Jackson has been with the team since 2008, but has only been a major contributor since 2011. Last season, he took over for an injured Brian Orakpo and played very well with 37 combined tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. He was undoubtedly a key contributor for the team down the stretch.
This season a healthy Orakpo has retaken his starting role and finally began to look like the dominant player he used to be against Oakland. He tallied four tackles and two sacks, generating pressure against a Raiders offense that was preoccupied with Ryan Kerrigan. If Orakpo remains healthy, Jackson will come on only in a reserve role which will limit any kind of impact he may have.
Though it may be easier for him to get up to speed since he was allowed contact with the team during his suspension, the Redskins will not be expecting Jackson to start barring an injury to one of the other outside linebackers.
Heading into Week 6, the Redskins have the worst defense in the league. They rank 27th in pass defense and 31st in run defense. They will be adding a starting defensive end who will take time to get back up to football speed, and a backup outside linebacker. Neither one of them have proven themselves to be that game-changing player that a defense can lean on and we certainly should not expect that type of impact from two players who have missed four weeks of practice.
Are the Redskins better off for getting these players back? Absolutely. They are both good players who at the very least add depth to the defense.
Is the return of Jenkins and Jackson the difference between a putrid defense and an average one? Absolutely not.
The sad fact is that despite how bad this defense was in 2012, it has gotten worse. After giving up 377.7 yards per game last year, the defense currently is giving up 440.5. Jenkins and Jackson will not account for a nearly 65 yard differential.
Four games into the season we have a pretty good idea of what this defense is. There are certainly things they can improve upon in-season that will help, eliminating missed tackles would give a definite boost, but it is safe to say this team is going to struggle defensively for the remainder of the season.
The return of Jenkins and Jackson won't change that.
JJ Regan is earning his master's degree in journalism at American University and is a current freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy
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