For the past four seasons, Jon Jansen would start full of optimism only to end with more disappointment. Seasons out of the playoffs, coaching changes -- it bothered him more every year. He re-signed here because he's loyal, likes the area and wanted to turn this team around.
This time he was genuinely upbeat. He had the line coach he wanted, maybe the guy whose tutelage would land him in the Pro Bowl. A week ago, he stood outside the trainer's room and talked wide-eyed about what Joe Bugel demanded of him. Once, his right hand was lined up six inches away from where it would have served him better. Coaches in the past would not tell him this, figuring Jansen was good enough to overcome those six inches.
Bugel knew better. Bugel knew the difference in those six inches was the difference in a good tackle and an excellent one. Jansen knew this. Jansen loved this. He even admitted this might be the year he reached the coveted Pro Bowl -- knowing that winning and the possibility of a strong running game would be the reasons.
He even had the the head coach he respected, something that hasn't always been the case. At one point last season, Jansen said he felt like he had been sentenced to prison, he'd become that miserable. Not anymore.
He had everything.
And then this.
Jansen ruptured the left Achilles' tendon with 3:50 left in the first quarter of the preseason opener against Denver. The Redskins would not call it a season-ending injury. But, at the very least, he'll miss a significant amount of time.
Meanwhile, the Redskins will miss a significant player. In his first five seasons Jansen didn't miss a start -- and he's only missed one play in his career, in his rookie season against the Giants.
There's a reason he's been called The Rock.
And in this day of big-money football, Jansen is also liked because of his passion for winning. He takes it personally, sometimes ducking out after games early because it bothers him so much. It's easy to tell if the Redskins won or lost on a Monday just by looking at Jansen's face.
It was easy to read his face from way up in the press box in Canton. Actually, that's not true because it was often hard to see his face. Jansen buried his head in his hands and then placed a towel over his head as he sat on the bench -- his wife stood in the press box with a stunned look, anxious to get down to the field.
Jansen was the face of the offense. For all the big names and for players with loftier credentials, it was Jansen who walked onto the field tonight as a tri-captain. It was Jansen who was the recognized leader of the offense, not the quarterbacks.
The Redskins must try to regroup without him, a tough task considering there's a good chance the left-handed Mark Brunell will start at quarterback, requiring the right tackle to protect his blind side. Jansen could do this. But who else on the roster can?
Daryl Terrell replaced him tonight, but it's Kenyatta Jones who likely will be the ultimate replacement. He started 13 games at right tackle two years ago until he landed in trouble for throwing hot water on a friend. But he has good experience and was considered a good prospect a few years ago.
Terrell did not look good at all tonight. He allowed a pressure on one play. On another play, Terrell started to block inside, found no one there, turned his back to the defense and got turned around. An ugly play for any lineman. He has experience, with 11 NFL starts, but he looked like anything but an answer.
Rookie Mark Wilson is not an option. At least not based on what I saw tonight. He looked mechanical and stiff and got little push off the ball. Of course, he's viewed as a project anyway and it was only his first game.
Jansen will be hard to replace. In this offense, they ask the tackles to pull; Jansen is athletic enough to do so. He's reliable, a prized trait by Gibbs.
But the Redskins will find a replacement. They have no choice. They will go on. But it's a damn shame for Jansen. For a guy who's labored here for five years he deserved to be part of a winner. After all, he's a huge reason why they had a chance to be one.
Redskins Win, But Lose Key Tackle Jon Jansen
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