Jarvis Jenkins is feeling pretty confident these days.
And why shouldn’t he?
The defensive end is comfortable in Redskins' scheme after making 14 starts in 2012. His surgically repaired right knee is no longer a concern. And, perhaps most important, the game is starting to slow down.
“It’s much easier,” said Jenkins, a 2011 second round pick who missed his rookie campaign with a torn ACL. “I have a year under my belt, with me being hurt my first year. So I’m not really thinking anymore. I’m just coming out here and playing ball.”
But that doesn’t mean Jenkins is satisfied.
Averaging about 38 snaps a game last season, Jenkins showed steady improvement and finished with 25 tackles, including two for loss. ProFootballFocus.com also credited him with four quarterback hits and 14 hurries. But Jenkins did not register a sack - and that still irks him.
“Speed of my get-off,” Jenkins said, asked where he wants to get better in 2013. “Main thing I need to work on is my pass rush, so that’s what I’m focusing on this year. Obviously I know I can stop the run; we’re a good team at doing that. We just have to improve on the pass rush and that’s what the D-line is working on.”
Indeed, the starters along the defensive line registered only 3.5 sacks last season. In 2011, the unit registered 14.5 sacks.
“When we don’t get sacks, it shows in our secondary,” Jenkins said. “Those guys can’t cover forever. Obviously, we’ve got to get a better pass rush and help the secondary out.”
Asked if he had a specific sack total he'd like to achieve, Jenkins added: “I wouldn’t say there’s a certain number. I did leave a lot of sacks out there. They put me in a great position to get sacks and I should have capitalized on them. I’m going into this season trying to not make that same mistake.”
Jenkins hopes a year's worth of starting experience – and the increased confidence he’s got in his knee – will give him the boost he needs. He also noted that when he removed the bulky and restrictive brace from his knee late last season, he started playing “way faster” as a result.
“I worked hard to get my knee back,” Jenkins said. “ Going through half the season, it was just confidence, being confident that I could play off that foot. And when [I got that confidence], it was, ‘Okay, I’m good now and I just went and played.’
Although Jenkins, 25, currently sits atop the depth chart at left end, he knows it’s possible he’ll face competition from veteran Adam Carriker in training camp. Carriker is working his way back from a torn quadriceps tendon he suffered in Week 2 last season.
“If I’m named the starter,” Jenkins said. “I got to produce.”