Some fans were seemingly scratching their heads when the Ravens used the 48th overall pick in the 2014 draft on defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan after selecting C.J. Mosley with their first pick.
After all, for all the talk leading up to the draft had the organization focusing on adding offense after last season’s demise and with good reason.
One thing that gets lost in the new NFL, where offense is taking over, is the fact that what good is scoring 35 if the opposition scores 36. It’s no secret the Ravens like defense and walk a fine line of keeping both sides of the ball on an even keel.
Since 2009, the Ravens have drafted 25 offensive players compared to 23 defensive players. Shoring up the Ravens defense in the 2014 draft makes perfect sense, particularly when considering depth, age and future salary cap implications.
Enter Timmy Jernigan.
Jernigan is a player albeit a rookie who could quite possibly find himself filling in for Arthur Jones who departed via free agency to the Colts and left a glaring void in the Ravens defensive front.
“I’m just going to continue to put in the work day-in and day-out and to learn from my teammates and other defensive linemen around me,” Jernigan replied when asked about if he expects to start in 2014.
“We’re here to make each other better. When Day One comes and Game One gets here, if I’m the starter, I’m the starter. If not, I’m just going to continue to do whatever my role is. I just want to be the best at it.”
The former Florida State Seminole will have the opportunity to learn under player favorite, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.
“He is really funny. (laughter) He is one of the funniest coaches I’ve ever had – already. I came from FSU, and I had a great D-line coach with Odell Haggins, and he reminds me a lot of him [in] their coaching styles,” Jernigan stated about Brooks.
Not only will Jernigan have the luxury to learn from Brooks but also will have the opportunity to work along with veteran Haloti Ngata.
“I think it’s a blessing to play with another great defensive tackle.”
“It’s a defensive lineman’s dream to be able to play with a great player beside him. It definitely will take a whole bunch of pressure off me, and he’ll definitely be a great person to learn from. As soon as I get a chance to meet him, I’m going to be taking notes and watching his every move.”
Adding to the fire of Jernigan as he starts his journey into the NFL is the controversy surrounding him and his diluted sample at the Combine. Initially projected as a first-round prospect by several analysts, Jernigan carries a chip on his shoulder and is ready to prove his critics wrong not by words but on the football field.
“I’m definitely going to prove people wrong. Ever since I got drafted, I’ve put that behind me.”
“I’m moving forward with my life, and I’m just trying to be the best Raven I can be [and] the best teammate I can be. I’m not worried about that stuff. I’m here to play football and be a great teammate – and that’s it.”
Going through his first rookie minicamp in the NFL much like every rookie new to the league, Jernigan is a student of the game and acknowledges he has a lot to learn.
“I just want to be the best I can be. It’s clear to see I was a great run-stopper in college. I didn’t really get a chance to show off my pass-rushing abilities, because I played in a two-gap scheme,” he shared when asked how he can improve his game.
“Now I feel like I’m in the right type of defense that is really going to turn me loose and showcase my ability.”
While Jernigan moved smoothly in seven on seven drills over the weekend it’s clear he knows there is a lot more to learn yet knows where he will likely fit in on the Ravens defense.
“In a scheme like this, I know that you really have to learn everything. The guys move around a lot – that’s what I’ve seen.”
“Each defensive lineman plays a little bit of the nose [guard], the shade [tackle] and the three-[technique] – a little bit of everything. So, that’s my biggest thing is being able to learn the playbook as a defensive lineman, not just as a nose guard or a defensive tackle.”
As the Ravens begin OTA’s over the next few weeks, Jernigan will have the chance to see just where his playing ability stands when he faces seasoned veterans. Until then, Jernigan will certainly try to keep stacking days and stay buried in his playbook.
There will be bumps in the road for the rookie and mistakes made along the way.
It would be naive to think otherwise.
But that chip will undoubtedly propel him forward.
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