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Jernigan Extension Smart In Big Picture

Posted Nov 9, 2017

This is a blueprint that has, truly, become real life. When the Eagles acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in a spring trade with the Baltimore Ravens, they envisioned Jernigan teaming with Fletcher Cox as an aggressive, relentless, 1-2 punch inside along the defensive line, collapsing pockets and stuffing running games ...

This is a blueprint that has, truly, become real life. When the Eagles acquired defensive tackle Tim Jernigan in a spring trade with the Baltimore Ravens, they envisioned Jernigan teaming with Fletcher Cox as an aggressive, relentless, 1-2 punch inside along the defensive line, collapsing pockets and stuffing running games.

That’s exactly what has happened for the Eagles through nine games, as the defensive line has led the way for a Jim Schwartz-led unit that has survived, and thrived, despite a rash of injuries.

And the Eagles, as part of that blueprint drawn up in early April when they acquired Jernigan and the 99th overall pick in the draft (which turned into cornerback Rasul Douglas) and sent Baltimore the 74th overall draft pick (defensive lineman Chris Wormley, who has played in five games, with two starts and has recorded five total tackles), wanted to keep Jernigan around for more than the single year remaining on his contract. So that’s why the news of a four-year contract extension for Jernigan announced on Thursday is so significant: The Eagles aren’t interested in messing around with a good thing. They’re keeping Jernigan in this system, next to Cox, creating mismatches that are giving the Eagles a formidable look along the defensive line of scrimmage.

"Since the day he entered the building, Tim has been a difference-maker both on the field and around the building," the team said in a statement. "He’s a tough, physical, and relentless player who brings energy and enthusiasm every day. Tim possesses a lot of the qualities that we look for as we continue to build this team and we are excited about his future here in Philadelphia."

“It’s really worked very well,” defensive line coach Chris Wilson said on Tuesday when the assistant coaches were made available to the media at the NovaCare Complex. “Tim fits in perfectly with what we’re doing. He likes to get after it. He works extremely hard at improving every day and he’s got the kind of attitude that rubs off on everyone else.

“Having Tim and Fletcher in there together, it just makes it very difficult for offenses trying to match up against them. Fletcher demands so much attention, and so does Tim. They play off of each other very well and they are unselfish, so it doesn’t matter who makes the play with our defensive line as long as we’re all working together.”

Jernigan doesn’t have the kind of numbers that jump off the page at you - he’s played 55 percent of the defensive snaps and has recorded 1.5 quarterback sacks, with 19 total tackles (an impressive eight for loss, tied for team most) and he has five quarterback hurries. He’s been around the ball a lot.

More than that, though, Jernigan is someone who offensive linemen must account for. He’s strong and sturdy and has a very good first step, so there have been plenty of times in nine games when Jernigan has created a crease, disrupted the blocking wall, and given another defensive player the chance to get to the football.

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“This is a very unique place. It’s a blessing to be here and to play with a lot of great people,” Jernigan said, recently. “I felt it would be a good fit for me and it’s turned out that way. I love playing for Coach Schwartz. He’s a demanding guy. He tells you what he wants from you and then you do it, or he’s going to let you know it. I’ve grown here. I’m very happy and I think our defense is rounding into the form we expected.”

Jernigan is a “twitchy” guy, and he’s got strength, so the move from Baltimore’s 3-4 scheme, one that did, contrary to the perception, allow Jernigan to be aggressive as a two-gapper, to this scheme where, as Jernigan says, “we just go with confidence that we’re doing the right things” has been great for him.

“I’d definitely love to be here for a long time,” Jernigan said prior to the Arizona game. “I like the way that sounds. I love the way that sounds.”

And now it’s happening. The Eagles have a lot of work to do not only for the remainder of this season but as they try to keep key pieces here and add for the future. Locking up Jernigan is huge, a great step. Players like linebacker Nigel Bradham and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive tackle Beau Allen and tight end Trey Burton and running back LeGarrette Blount and cornerback Patrick Robinson are among those whose contracts are due to expire after the 2017 campaign.

Keeping Jernigan is a biggie, though. The Eagles have reached 8-1 for a lot of reasons, including winning on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The blueprint put in place in spring is unfolding before our very eyes and moves like signing Jernigan to a contract extension make for great news on a bye weekend for the Eagles.

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