Jansen returns—but is he back?

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Jansen returns—but is he back?

In today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, there is a Paul Woody article about Washington Redskins tackle Jon Jansen. At the top, there is a four-column black and white picture of Jansen lying on the FedEx Field turf in agony right after a tangle in a pile resulted in him sustaining a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. His 2007 season ended less than 30 minutes after it started.

Woody's article talks about the two major injuries from which Jansen has had to recover since 2004, when a preseason Achilles tendon tear put him on the shelf for all of that season. Woody writes about Jansen's family life (he has two young daughters) and his offseason activities (he appeared on ESPN and wrote for The Sporting News).

He mentions the 2008 preseason only briefly, saying that "the Redskins' front five have been playing well in the preseason. They're protecting quarterback Jason Campbell and providing openings for the running game."

I'd have to say that the dean of Redskins beat writers is nine-tenths right here. All five starters have been doing well in run blocking, opening holes for whichever running back is handed the ball. Four of the five are doing a decent job of pass protection. The exception to the latter is Jon Jansen.

In the four series in which he has played, two in each of his team's games so far, Jansen has struggled in pass protection. He has wound up getting pushed back well into the backfield on several occasions. Against the Bills he was flagged for holding. In the Hall of Fame game a Colts defensive end not named Dwight Freeney pushed him around.

His problems have not been limited to the preseason games. Jansen has had some embarrassing moments in practice as well. Earlier this week Jason Taylor threw him to the ground as though Jansen were some sort of tackling dummy.

This has led to Jansen becoming a whipping boy on some message boards and blogs. He's too old and injury prone, they say. Jason Campbell won't survive September if they don't do something. Get rid of him and a kid like Chad Reinhardt or Stephon Heyer and chance.

To address the last part first, Jansen isn't going anywhere. He signed a contract extension prior to last season that would make releasing him very costly in terms of the 2009 salary cap.

Is he too old? No, 32 is not ancient for an offensive lineman by any means. Is he injury prone? Well, it's hard to argue that a player who has missed virtually all of two of the last four seasons is the picture of health. However, you also can make the case that the two injuries were the result of horribly bad luck, not of an inherent fragility in Jansen's physical makeup.

In any case, the Redskins are going to put him out there and see what happens. His struggles could be the result of him trying to knock of the rust that has accumulated as a result of missing last year. If that's the case, he should round into form by the time the season starts.

That brings up the question of what "form" for Jon Jansen is at this stage of his career. In his first few years in the league he was among the best tackles in the game with the Redskins' mediocre records costing him Pro Bowl spots. For the past few years, however, even when healthy, the general consensus is that he's been average at best.

Right now, Jansen has some work to do to get up to being average.

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