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DT Tim Jernigan: Loving Life As An Eagle

Posted May 31, 2017

When the Eagles acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in a trade with Baltimore prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, they expected a player who brought energy and intensity to the defense on every snap of the football. What they've seen from him so far is exactly that kind of player, and more ...

When the Eagles acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in a trade with Baltimore prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, they expected a player who brought energy and intensity to the defense on every snap of the football. What they've seen from him so far is exactly that kind of player, and more.

If first impressions mean anything, then Jernigan with the Eagles in this defense is a perfect marriage.

"(I) watched him when he came out of Florida State and then a little bit with the Ravens," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday. "You always cross over film and you watch him. He's playing a different scheme now. It's a lot less reading; it’s a lot more attacking. I think it fits him. He can win individual pass rushes, meaning when the center is sliding away, he's a tough matchup for a guard. He's not physically the biggest guy, but he's very strong and he's very active.

"It's been a great addition for us. I really look forward to coaching him, and I really look forward to him being on the field for us. I also like his temperament. He's got a football player's temperament."

Jernigan is a ball of activity on the football field. He doesn't stop, as his tempo ranges from non-stop to blindingly fast.

It's natural, Jernigan says. And the Eagles can expect to see a whole lot more of it.

"I was born this way," Jernigan said on Wednesday following the team's Organized Team Activity. "I definitely don't think it's something you can coach and I don't think it's something that you can bribe your players to do, as a coach. It's just that I've always loved this game and the love hasn't gone anywhere. 

"I kind of think that's what made us so special at Florida State when I was there (winning a National Championship in 2013). We had a bunch of guys just like me. That's something I try to take with me everywhere I go. If we get everybody on the same page with people who love to be around the game, then I think we have a big-time shot at winning this thing."

"Winning this thing" is quite a ways down the line, so right now the focus is on every day of practice leading into the mandatory minicamp in two weeks. Jernigan is lining up with the first-team defensive line, in lockstep with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and among ends like Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, and rookie Derek Barnett. All are high-octane players. All are disruptors.

For Jernigan, who played for three seasons, and played well, in Baltimore's read-and-react, three-man front, putting his hand down with the directive of "go" in Schwartz's scheme is football heaven.

"I love it, man," Jernigan said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. A very long time. To play in a scheme like this, and not only that but with players like this, I feel like we're getting better on every level. You see how the back end is benefiting from everything we're doing and we're doing the same. Our linebackers are making plays. For me, playing with Cox and Long and Brandon Graham, these are guys I've watched in my career, even when they were in college. Those guys get after it, just like I do.

"I am loving it. Everybody is putting in the work and getting better. When the season starts, it's going to be so much fun."

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In the meantime, Jernigan is the tone-setter at practice. His pace of play jumps off the page, if you will. Jernigan is the kind of player every coach wants because, even if Jernigan wakes up and doesn't want to go to work, a feeling we all experience from time to time, he doesn't let it impact his focus for the day.

"I don't say a lot, by nature," Jernigan said. "I'm a pretty quiet guy around here. It's just that I love the game so much and even if I'm not in the best mood that day, once I get on the field everything changes. It just clicks in for me.

"Gamedays are at a totally different level. I don't do anything special to get up for games, to get in the right frame of mind. It just happens. I don't go through any ritual to get ready. I just am ready to play football, to get after it."

You will notice Jernigan the instant you watch the defense fire off the football, whether it's a drab practice day in May or an NFC East game in October. He's bringing it. That's all Tim Jernigan knows, and his edge is exactly what the Eagles need for a defense looking to take the big step forward in 2017.

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