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High Expectations For Third-Year D-Linemen?


A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a diagnosis that no professional athlete wants to hear.

Especially in a physically-demanding sport like football, tearing an ACL destabilizes the base and causes most players to lose a year of playing time.

Even in the best case scenarios, this can be a career-altering injury.

Fortunately for third-year defensive linemen Chris Neild and Jarvis Jenkins, the diagnosis has been heard, the rehab has been completed, and a healthy future lies ahead in Year 3.

For Jenkins, it was a rookie season cut short by an ACL tear suffered in Baltimore during the third preseason game.

Seemingly on the fast-track to NFL success, Jenkins needed almost the full year to get back to full speed. Shortly thereafter, injury created opportunity and he was pressed into starting duty.

Even then, Jenkins spent most of the 2012 season getting up to speed with what he missed his rookie year.

"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.

"That's the main thing with an ACL injury, is getting the mental part right. I'm not thinking about it at all."

Jenkins finished off his first full season in the NFL with 42 tackles, two for a loss, 22 quarterback pressures and one pass defensed.

"I thought [Jenkins] got progressively better every game," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He was excellent on the run and you can see he's finally settled in after the injury.

"He's going to be a heck of a player. He's kind of taken off."

Neild found NFL success before his injury, collecting two sacks in his first eight plays on the NFL gridiron. While his numbers stabilized over the course of a season, he made the most of his opportunities against the run.

Then, following the team's preseason victory over the Buffalo Bills, Neild suffered a torn ACL that delayed his opportunity for an encore performance.

With training camp opening 11 and-a-half months after Neild suffered his own preseason ACL tear, the player known simply as "Truck" is excited to be back out of the shop.

"I feel good. It's coming back to me," Neild said during last month's minicamp. "Once you get back on the field and see how an offense is working, you start to notice things and you get back in the feel of things."

Neild said he first felt like himself on the football field in May, capping off nine months of rehab at the facility, during which he did not take a single week off.

"I knew it was eventually going to pay off," Neild said of his diligent work with the team's training staff. "I knew it was going to heal up and I feel good about it now."

When healthy, Neild is a superior run-stuffer that can clog up the middle of the Redskins' defensive line. Haslett, for one, is excited to have him back in the trenches for 2013.

"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."

The availability of veterans Barry Cofield and Adam Carriker will likely affect how often Neild and Jenkins appear on the field in 2013. But if Haslett's offseason excitement in any indication, he expects big things out of the duo in their third NFL seasons.

"I think Jarvis [Jenkins] has looked better than he did [in 2012]," Haslett said during minicamp. "He understands the defense now. He has his feet under him. He's got the brace off. He's running around.

"You can just tell [Jenkins] feels a lot more comfortable, kind of like Barry [Cofield] and Bo [Stephen Bowen] did their first time. I think he'll make a lot more plays this year than he did last year."




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