Will likely be back
Rumored since the Jaguars preseason game, the news is out, Jon Jansen, the longest tenured current Redskin and the team's right tackle for ten years, has been demoted to second team in favor of second year undrafted free agent Stephon Heyer. This is the way of football, still it should not go without a comment, there are some interesting circumstances here.
It was known and accepted that Jon had some struggles in training camp, particularly in the area of pass blocking. He is returning to action after breaking his leg in the first game of last season and missing the rest of the year, then sprained his foot in the final week of camp prior to the Jaguars preseason game. Stephon Heyer himself had hurt his knee, an MCL stretch in the Hall of Fame preseason game against the Colts, it was not serious and over the last two preseason games Stephon simply outplayed Jon.
As if adding injury to insult Jon has been practicing with the guards (op. cit.) , a position he has never played in the NFL. This tends to indicate to me that even Chad Rinehart would go at tackle ahead of Jon if needed.
This is the way things work in the NFL, I suspect when we look back at this decision at the end of the 2008 season it may well be one of those Stephon took the job when Jon was a bit weakened and never gave it back situations.
Jon is not going anywhere though, the team gave him a big contract extension after the 2006 season and he is not affordable to cut and in any event I do not think he should be cut, he may still have some more in the tank and taking time away from the starting position, having to play 70 or more plays a game at full speed, may wind up prolonging Jon's career.
I thought Stephon did a great job as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland last year and I have preached over the offseason and training camp that if Stephon could continue his development then the Redskins may have a prospective starter for the future. Looks like the future is now.
Then again weak play, Stephon held Michael Strahan in check last season and was demolished by Patrick Kerney in the Seahawks playoff game, could lead to these players swapping places again.
A final thought on the changing of the
guard tackle. When a guy like Jon Jansen who has played as solidly as he has for ten seasons gets displaced by a second year guy that was not even drafted, there is a problem in your organization. It is the natural progression of things that older players are supplanted by younger players, that is the way it works.
Now look back at the 2007 draft. Every single team passed on Stephon Heyer. Every one, all 32. Stephon was forced into a starting role for five games last season after Todd Wade, who was already filling in for Jon and his dislocated ankle, hurt his knee and did well enough to help the team get into the playoffs.
So this means one or both of two things: Stephon was really a rough diamond and the Redskins were lucky dogs to get him, he is developing and there is a strong chance he could be solid for years and if this season validates that position that Stephon will get a new contract and be the face of right tackle going into 2009; and or that Jon's ability to play the position has deteriorated so far that he, a former second round pick, cannot even beat out a guy no one called on draft day.
Jon Jansen: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP photo from here.