Washington Redskins' defensive linemen Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Neild have a lot in common. They were both members of the same draft class, they have both overcome career threatening ACL injuries, and now they'll deal with the expectations of producing at a high level for a team that hopes to win back-to-back NFC East Championships.
The team had high hopes for Jenkins after selecting him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but those dreams came crashing down after he tore an ACL in the third preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Missing all of his rookie season meant Jenkins had a steep learning curve when he returned to the field for the 2012 season, where it took him almost the entire season getting up to speed of the NFL game. Despite a slow start, Jenkins was pressed in to starting duty midway through the year, and finished strong, with 42 tackles, including two for a loss, and 22 quarterback pressures.
Jenkins told Redskins.com that things would be different in 2013.
“I feel pretty good; my conditioning is up to where I want it. I’m up to full-speed and I’m just looking to get better in my pass rush,” he told the media in August, 2012, one year removed from surgery. “I’ve got the [knee] brace on and it’s helping me a lot."
Chris Neild, who starred for the Mountaineers of West Virginia University, faces more of an uphill climb. A seventh round draft pick in 2011, he brought immediate impact on the field, collecting two sacks in his first eight opportunities on the field. He's known as a run-stopping nose-tackle, adept at clogging the middle and allowing linebackers to make plays on the ball, vital in the Redskins' 3-4 defensive system.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is excited to get Neild back in the defensive line rotation.
“I think [Chris] Neild did a heck of a job as a rookie…played excellent for us [in 2011] in the run game,” Haslett said last season. “He would have done a heck of a job for us this year. But you get a guy like Jarvis Jenkins back and now you have a little bit of depth.”
It's clear that Washington is going to depend on both to help improve upon their 28th ranked defense last season. The team added a host of players in the defensive secondary to help shore up their pass defense but will rely on the health of Jenkins and Neild to get to the quaterback and plug the running lanes that plagued them last season.
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