It’s always exciting when a young player with upside is acquired. It’s even more exciting when that young player is acquired for a third round pick swap. The player I’m talking about is none other than Timmy Jernigan, the fourth year defensive lineman from Florida State. Jernigan was the Raven’s second round pick in 2014 after reportedly failing a drug test that killed his first round draft stock. Based on that statement alone, it’s like the Eagles added another first round pick (right, Cowboys fans?).
Before rolling the tape on Jernigan’s 2016 season, I had a good idea who he was based on the film pieces I’ve done over at Baltimore Beatdown. The thing about defensive linemen is that often (at least in a 3-4) they don't jump off of the screen unless you're watching them specifically. This happened to be the case with Jernigan, but one thing that was evident is how talented he truly is. Before breaking down a few of his plays, I do want to add the disclaimer that how the Ravens used Jernigan and how the Eagles will use him will be entirely different. Baltimore used him as a two-gap defensive lineman which negates the ability to attack upfield. In Jim Schwartz’s scheme he will likely be a one-tech player with one gap responsibility, meaning he’ll get to pin his ears back and attack. I tried to pick plays that exemplify his strengths and weaknesses while also showing the style of play that Schwartz asks of his players.
One good thing about being a two-gap lineman is that you have to keep your head up and display good vision. Above Jernigan (No. 99) does just that, mirroring Tyrod Taylor as he spins to his left. Jernigan spins out of his block and chases Taylor to the sideline forcing a throw against his body. Jernigan routinely displayed a high motor and that will only make him valuable to Schwartz.
Above Jernigan (1-tech) keeps his head up and recognizes that even though the offensive line is washing down to his right, the runner is coming to his left. Jernigan sheds his block, moves to his left and makes the tackle. Jernigan’s presence in the gap is huge because the offensive tackle comes across the formation to seal the outside rusher, so if Jernigan is unable to shed his man it likely opens a running lane for the halfback to get to the safeties.
Last clip of his ability to keep his eyes on the ball carrier. Working against Zack Martin, Jernigan keeps his eyes on Ezekiel Elliott, disengages Martin by pushing him into another block, bringing down Elliott as he tries to cutback. One of the biggest traits valued in a defensive lineman is his ability to locate the ball carrier or quarterback so that they're not guessing or caught out of position. I’m not entirely sure if it was Jernigan’s intention to shed Martin the way he did, but a good defensive lineman is going to take advantage of a situation and that’s exactly what Jernigan did.
Explosiveness/Ability to attack
I loved Jernigan’s explosiveness when he shot up the field! You could tell how athletic he was on plays like the one above when he’s instantly in the backfield. Here, Jernigan shoots the gap as he explodes off of the snap before the left guard can pull over his way. Jernigan completely wrecks the play and eliminates any cutback lane for LeSean McCoy. One way to judge a defensive lineman isn't just with sacks or pressures, but how he eliminates holes or creates opportunities for his teammates next to him or right behind him to make plays. A scheme like Schwartz’s can give linebackers a rough time, but relief can be provided when the players in front of them are penetrating and clogging running lanes.
Once again, another play showing how Jernigan can explode upfield. When Jonny profiled Chance Warmack he noted how Warmack often found himself on the ground and above is an example of why that’s really bad. Jernigan never lets the guard get his hands on him (avoiding the double team from the tackle as well) and puts him on the ground, exploding in the backfield and correcting his body in time to get in on dropping the halfback for a minimal gain. The quickness and explosiveness to get in the backfield immediately off of the snap should have fans salivating to see him next to Fletcher Cox!
Here Jernigan beats Brandon Scherff inside immediately off the snap and destroys Kirk Cousins. This is more of what you'll see with Jernigan is Philadelphia as a one gap player who will be attacking relentlessly. I wanted to use some examples of plays against teams that he’ll see often playing in the NFC East and Jernigan gave me plenty of tape to work with as you'll see.
Jernigan again gets off the snap before the left tackle can block down on him and he works his way through the B-gap. From here the lineman coming across the formation gets held up by the penetration and it blows the entire play up. Based on the Raven’s defensive alignment the play was unlikely to gain much yardage, but Jernigan's quickness certainly didn't help that cause.
Jernigan is aided by the blitz here, but he beat Ronald Leary to the outside and collapses the pocket from Dak’s left. This forces the quarterback to step into the linebacker who twisted back inside to drop him for the sack. I’m pretty much beating a dead horse, but I truly believe Jernigan can thrive in this scheme if he wants it.
To go along with the quickness Jernigan has power and he’s often an immovable object. In the play above it’s Jernigan against Scherff again but Timmy just bullies him back into Cousins’ line of sight taking away the ability to step up or slide to the right of the pocket and forcing the QB to get rid of it quickly.
Here it is again. Jernigan powers the left guard into the QB’s lap and forces him out to the right, into more pressure and he has to throw it away. One thing that was key and seemed to be contrast early on between Bennie Logan and Beau Allen was Logan’s ability to push and collapse one side of the pocket to make things easier for Graham and Cox. I fully believe that Jernigan can not only provide that ability, but add the pass rush that Bennie Logan didn't have.
Now in this play Jernigan does get doubled and his body gets turned, but he’s not moved off his spot. He’s able to plant and clog the gap as his teammates swarm to bring down the ball carrier. Hopefully this isn't something he's asked to do much of, but it’s encouraging to watch a guy who’s listed at under 300 pounds clog space and stand his ground on double teams.
One common theme I found with Jernigan is that each game he seemed to slow down a little towards the end. I know in Baltimore that there were issues concerning his stamina late in games, which may have been attributed to his first full year as a starter. I don't really want to attribute that excuse because he’s had three full years of NFL conditioning and should be used to the season long grind.
Jernigan appeared to enter the doghouse after a late October loss to the Jets in which he fumbled after recovering a fumble instead of just going down with the ball. From that point forward his snaps decreased to the point that he only had 21 total against Dallas after clearing 40 in each week except one before playing the Jets. Some of that had to do with his actions, but the emergence of Michael Pierce helped phase Jernigan out.
From a technique standpoint, I noticed that Jernigan would struggle against veteran guards that knew how to get their hands on his torso. Richie Incognito of the Bills did an excellent job all game long of stifling Jernigan and manipulating his body in pass protection. I believe he learned a lot from that Week 1 matchup, though, since he became more conscious of allowing linemen to reach him or make first contact. If you note the clips under the explosiveness section, you'll see that Jernigan never allows his opponent to get his hands to where they can manipulate or even relatively influence what he does.
I was big fan of the trade when it was announced because of my experience with Jernigan and after watching his 2016 tape in addition to some of his college tape as a 4-3 defensive tackle, I was felt reinforced in my opinions. The additions of Chris Long and Timmy Jernigan this offseason have helped to crowd the defensive line, but that’s a position where depth truly matters with the constant rotations. I’m curious to see where and when Schwartz plays him with Curry (who kicked inside on third down) and Long but I can't imagine it'll be too hard to find snaps in the right situation for a guy this talented. The Eagles took a flier on talent and are banking on Jernigan to show out in a contract year. Although it may be hard to pay him if he does produce in this scheme, it does mean that he’s producing, and hopefully helping the team push towards the playoffs.