Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins reported on Saturday that the surgically repaired knee that cost him his rookie NFL campaign feels good through the first three practices of Redskins Training Camp 2012.
A second-round pick in 2011, Jenkins was expected to be an immediate contributor on the Redskins' defense last season. Unfortunately, those plans were postponed after Jenkins suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the first quarter of a preseason game at Baltimore.
"He's everything you look for in a person and a football player," a disappointed Shanahan said, after placing Jenkins on injury reserve last season. "It always hurts to lose a great player."
Shanahan said Jenkins's return will provide more depth to the defensive line, as he anticipates a jolt to an already formidable defensive line rotation.
"When you have another defensive end his size, it gives you a good boost," Shanahan said after practice. "You find somebody 6-5, 320 pounds that can move and play as well as he did during preseason last year, you're looking for him to really help turn your defense around.
"We have more depth there – another guy who fits into our [3-4] scheme."
Although Jenkins has never taken a regular season snap, he's made a strong impression on his young and veteran teammates, who look for him to bounce back and have a huge year.
"We expect a lot out of Jarvis this year," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said in his training camp blog, Inside the Park. "It was a big blow when we lost him last year, because he's such a talented player."
"He's worked his butt off to come back from his injury and he's looked really good these first couple days of practice," said Kerrigan, who was a fellow 2011 draft pick for the Redskins. "He's someone that can have a big impact on our defense this year and we're pumped to have him back."
The second-year defensive end also caught the eye of 15-year linebacker London Fletcher.
Jenkins's return is a big reason why Fletcher predicted the Redskins' defense, which finished 13th in the NFL in 2011, will take a big step forward in 2012.
"Jarvis [Jenkins] back is going to be a big plus for us," Fletcher said. "I think if you can remember how he was playing last year in the preseason and training camp, he was making a lot of plays for us. He has a lot of talent."
Jenkins saw significant time with the first-team defense during last year's training camp and coaches and teammates alike raved at his ability to shed blockers and disrupt plays. After a long rehab and full recovery from the knee injury, Jenkins is eager to show Redskins Nation that he's still every bit the player that made him a training camp standout a season ago.
When asked what it felt like to finally be practicing again at full speed, Jenkins grinned and said, "It feels good, man. Everything was going fast-paced, just like I was a rookie again, but this time around I know my plays.
"I just have to do the little things right, pay attention to detail and try to be perfect. It's not a perfect defense, but if you work to be perfect individually, you will be."
Jenkins also embraced the idea of competing for playing time in 2012, joining a starting rotation that worked together for all of last season.
"There's nothing better than being around some great guys competing, and just knowing that [your unit] could be the heart of the whole team," Jenkins said. "Just working at it and building camaraderie—that's why I like going to practice."
With a year to observe the Redskins' defense from the sidelines, Jenkins said he feels a little bit like a rookie, but is smarter than he was last year. By learning the playbook, watching film, and consulting veteran teammates, Jenkins has put himself in a position to succeed.
"I think a lot more before the ball is snapped," said Jenkins. "Last year, I didn't kind of know tendencies, you know what an offensive lineman does as far as hit feet, how his feet are set. I pay attention to that a little more and it really helped me in the offseason by Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker teaching me that stuff, and I just brought it to the field."
Although he feels mentally and physically prepared for the season, Jenkins understands that his development as a professional has only just begun.
"I got veterans playing six, seven years – Adam Carriker, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen – so I feel kind of young still," he admitted. "But I'm learning a lot."