When the Baltimore Ravens were on the clock in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, there were a few positions that ideally needed to be addressed.
Would the Ravens snag a new free safety, another running back, a tight end, perhaps a wide receiver or even a right tackle? It turned out that “none of the above” was the case.
Instead, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Co. stuck to their “best player available” approach, selecting Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who plays a position the team didn’t necessarily need to upgrade at the time.
At first glance, Jernigan figured to compete with Brandon Williams for the starting nose tackle job, while also earning reps at defensive end. But in Baltimore’s 3-4 defense, Jernigan has found his niche at defensive end, where his role has been gradually increasing throughout the year.
Hampered by a knee injury earlier in the season, Jernigan has only been active for six games and played 108 defensive snaps. While the sample size is small, Jernigan hasn’t been lacking in impact. His pure strength both as an interior pass rusher and against the run makes it clear why he was so coveted by the Ravens front office when he was still available in the second round.
Having a surplus of defensive linemen never hurts, which has made it much easier to buy into the selection of Jernigan by the Ravens. As his role considerably increases (perhaps not until next season), it will be easier to notice how much of an impact Jernigan makes in the trenches.
The Ravens successfully brought in a player whose strength often simply outmatches the opposition, and someone who has shown high effort on a consistent basis, something that was not as evident while at Florida State.
If Jernigan keeps up the level of play he has produced thus far, he’ll likely outplay his placing as the 48th overall selection in the 2014 draft.
Where has Jernigan’s impact been felt?
Coming out of Florida State, the biggest draw was Jernigan’s run-defending prowess. In the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, Jernigan showed quality lateral movement against a fast and diverse rush offense. As noted, his immense strength also gives him inherent advantages against the run.
Shown here against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jernigan is the quickest player off the line, already pushing his way between two blockers before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger even begins the handoff.
He recognizes that the run play is directed toward the right side of the offensive line and quickly reacts.
Instead of trying to use brute strength to push through the line and make a play in the backfield, Jernigan shows off his lateral movement and quickly works his way toward the direction which then Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount is headed.
Traffic on the right side redirects Blount back toward the middle of the field, where Jernigan has already created disruption.
With Blount headed back toward Jernigan, the defensive lineman sheds his blocker, leading to two rookies (Jernigan and linebacker C.J. Mosley) piling up on Blount for a minimal gain.
Good plays in run defense by Jernigan are nice, but that was the known coming out of college; there was no question whether or not Jernigan would be able to make at least some impact in that department.
Where Jernigan has impressed and exceeded expectations is against the pass. His pure strength has led to several disruptive plays as an interior pass rusher, including two notable impact plays against the Tennessee Titans.
At Florida State, oftentimes Jernigan didn’t use his strength to his advantage when rushing the passer. He would also implement more finesse moves such as the swim move, which takes away his best quality, his strength.
But this season in Baltimore, Jernigan has used almost exclusively power moves when attacking the quarterback.
Here, Jernigan throws the center off balance early in the play.
Once he gets the blocker in the position in which he wants him, Jernigan can then begin to start shedding off the block.
After knocking the lineman backwards, Jernigan uses his strength to rip off the engagement and begin his pursuit of the quarterback.
Once fully disengaged, Jernigan closes in on the passer. Given how fast the defender pushed through the center and began his pursuit of the quarterback, there’s nowhere to go but down for the Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
The end result is Jernigan’s first career NFL sack.
In the same game in which he showed up on the stat sheet with a sack, Jernigan’s impact was also felt in other ways, on other plays.
On a play in which outside linebacker Terrell Suggs sacks Mettenberger, Jernigan displays his desirable strength as an interior pass rusher yet again.
Suggs provides the pass rush on the outside, which flusters Mettenberger.
However, Jernigan’s ability to knock right guard Chance Warmack off balance and collapse the pocket narrows Mettenberger’s operating space.
Jernigan tosses Warmack (widely considered one of the strongest offensive linemen in the 2013 draft) aside with ease and closes in on Mettenberger.
The ability of Jernigan to close off one side of the pocket leaves Mettenberger helpless as Suggs brushes off the left tackle and records the sack.
More disruptive plays from the interior by Jernigan will free up even easier pass rush opportunities on the outside for outside linebackers Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee.
So far, Jernigan has displayed plenty of desirable qualities that make it easy to buy into him as a future staple on Baltimore’s defensive line.
There were some red flags coming out of college, such as a failed drug test at the combine.
But since arriving in Baltimore, Jernigan has been free of problems, and his on-field play has done the talking.
It looks as if the “best player available” mindset of Baltimore’s front office led to another solid draft selection.