June 3, 2009

Jansen’s Departure Clears Up Offensive Line Picture

Jon Jansen’s release from the Washington Redskins brings the end of an era. Granted, it wasn’t the golden age of football for Washington, not even close to it, but Jansen represents the hard work and work ethic that fans see year after year from the offensive line here.

In DC, we treasure the guys who will put their noses in the dirt and play tough in the trenches. Jansen was the prototypical “Hog.” He played at a high level from his rookie year in 1999 all the way to 2007 despite numerous injuries that would have derailed many other players’ careers.

He tore an achilles, broke a leg, dislocated an ankle; two season-ending injuries. He played a full season with both his thumbs in casts, and managed to play one game with a torn calf.

That’s the kind of blue-collar play the ‘Skins could use all the time. Unfortunately, the injuries caught up to Jansen last year and he saw his performance drop off the face of the earth.

It was only a matter of time before Jansen was let go. Perhaps it was a season too soon, but quite honestly Jansen has nothing left in the tank. The only question was did the ‘Skins feel fine with their other options at right tackle?

Apparently, the ‘Skins are comfortable with starting either Mike Williams, Stephon Heyer, or Jeremy Bridges at RT. All three are probably better options than Jansen, and they had several months of OTAs and minicamps to see that.

The ‘Skins might have already known that Jansen’s time was done, but waited to cut him so they wouldn’t absorb a cap hit until after the draft and free agency. They gave him a shot at backup center in the meantime, but evidently they saw that he wouldn’t be worth a roster spot considering his big contract.

Jansen’s presence will be missed. He was a natural leader who was a big part of the franchise. However, he just didn’t have enough to offer in terms of on-field performance.

Some thought he would compete for the right tackle spot again, but now it’s left to the aforementioned three to battle it out.

Williams weighs in around 400 pounds, but is working down to a playing weight of 370. If he puts in the work (and that’s a big if), he could emerge as a force especially in the run game. For now he’s a former first round bust though.

Bridges has seen some action back in his days with the Carolina Panthers, but will probably earn a roster spot for depth purposes and see time backing up either Heyer or Williams.

Heyer has the inside track. Offensive line coach, Joe Bugel, loves him and has since his rookie year in 2007. In 2007, Heyer proved he could play with the big boys by shutting down Michael Strahan and only giving up one sack to Jason Taylor (when Taylor wa actually good). 2008 was a down year because of injuries, but Heyer had won the RT job over Jansen before getting hurt.

Heyer is back and reportedly impressing the coaching staff again. Expect him to win the job provided he has a strong preseason. If he can improve upon his 2007 performance, the Redskins might not be in so much trouble when it come to protecting for Jason Campbell.

Jansen was signed by the Lions so he will return to his native Michigan, but to us in DC, Jansen will always be a member of the Burgundy and Gold. Thanks for the dedication and hard work, Jon! We can only hope your replacement puts in half the effort you did.

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