The Redskins put up 41 sacks in 2011 and sacked the quarterback on 7.5 percent of pass attempts. Those aren’t bad numbers; they were tied for 10th in the league in total sacks and they were eighth in sack percentage. Pro Football Focus rated them eighth in overall pass pressure, a number that includes QB hits and hurries as well as sacks.
But anyone who watched the team week in and week out knows that the Redskins’ pass rush was lacking. They rarely were able to get to the quarterback in key situations and they forced very few fumbles with pass pressure.
In response to this, the Redskins did–nothing. The only draft pick who plays in the front seven was linebacker Keenan Robinson, who is a year or two away from contributing on a regular basis. No defensive linemen were signed. Free agent linebackers Jonathan Goff and Bryan Kehl were brought in but they will only fill reserve and special teams roles. The only transactions there were to bring back London Fletcher, Kedric Golston, and Darrion Scott.
That’s all well and good, but how will they generate more pass rush? The key could be someone they already had on their roster, Jarvis Jenkins.
As Jenkins comes back from a knee injury that wiped out his rookie season, it is as though the Redskins recouped the second-round pick they gave up in the deal to move up in the draft to get Robert Griffin III. And he could be the key to turning the Redskins’ pass rush from good to great.
Jenkins is not a classic edge rusher but that is not the role he is expected to play. At 6-4, 310 he will be more of a disrupter, using his size, strength, and quickness to do what 3-4 linemen are supposed to do, which is create opportunities for others to make plays.
But that doesn’t mean that Jenkins won’t get a few sacks of his own. Look for him to get some pressure up the middle when lined up in the nose position in passing situations. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him rack up a half a dozen sacks or so, especially if Griffin and the offense can give them a good lead to work with every once in a while.
Unless and until Robert Griffin III comes into his own as a quarterback, the defensive front seven will be the strength of the 2012 Redskins. The addition of Jenkins to that group could make the unit strong enough to carry the team to some additional wins.