Tim Jernigan hoped it would be a great fit, the one matching his skill set and what Jim Schwartz asks the Eagles' defensive linemen to do. Attack mode, Jernigan thought, is for me. And through two games, Jernigan is right at home in the scheme, adding his tenacity and a whole lot more to the mix.
"I feel good about where I'm at, but I've just got to continue to grow," said Jernigan, who has seven total tackles, two for loss, and 1.5 quarterback sacks with Sunday's game against New York ahead. "There are areas in my game that I can get better at, the little things that it takes to be dominant in this defense. I'm still learning. I'm never going to stop learning, and I'm as humble as ever and I'm just trying to get better."
Jernigan's off-the-ball ability to turn speed into power has translated nicely here. The Eagles thrive defensively when the line is penetrating and disrupting offenses behind the line of scrimmage. With eight quarterback sacks in two games, the outlook is promising.
Jernigan fits in perfectly.
"He brings us some nastiness up the middle," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "That boy is a problem. He has great quickness off the ball. Keep him fresh. A fresh Tim Jernigan is only going to help us. You've got to double-team him, because one person just isn't going to get it done."
Up and down the line, the Eagles look for one-on-one blocking matchups, which generally is an advantage for this defensive line. How can an offensive line double-team Graham, a second-team All-Pro last year who is off to a dominating start in 2017, and double-team tackle Fletcher Cox, a Pro Bowl player who has been outstanding in two games this season, *and *Jernigan, who is thriving after playing in a more subdued scheme – for defensive linemen – in Baltimore for three seasons after the Ravens made him a second-round draft pick in 2014?
Somebody has to break free, right?
"That's the thing with this line," Cox said. "It's hard to center your attention on just one guy, because we all can make plays. We want to keep coming at offenses and we're doing that. Tim is playing a big part in what we're doing. It's exciting to see how he's fit in. We're just beginning to get to know each other.
The challenge on Sunday is to keep the pressure on against Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who has yet to find his rhythm in two weeks. New York's offense hasn't scored 20 points in a game since last November and has scored just a single touchdown this season. Manning has been sacked eight times and he's been under siege for most of the two games, both losses.
Even at 0-2, the Giants know the season can be turned around. They were 0-2 in 2007, a season in which they won a Super Bowl. So it can be done.
"They're a good football team and they just haven't found their stride yet," Jernigan said. "We have all the respect in the world for them and their capabilities. We just have to play our game. We have to keep attacking and making things happen up front. That's what we do."
The Cox-Jernigan combination has worked out as the Eagles hoped it would, with both interior defensive linemen off to strong starts.
"Fletch is a dominant guy," Jernigan said. "He demands double teams and I feel the same way about myself. What complements us is the guys around us. It takes all four of us. The guys on the outside are doing a great job and that helps both Fletch and myself.
"We're just playing off of each other. Coach wants us to attack, and that's what we're doing."
It's still early, but the defensive line has delivered on the very high expectations. There is high-end talent and good depth, and line coach Chris Wilson has been able to rotate his players throughout the course of a game and keep them all fresh and on edge.
On Sunday, the Eagles will look to the defensive line to set the tone.
"That's what we're here to do," Jernigan said. "Every week, we want to establish ourselves. This game is no different."