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November 05, 2018

Eagles DT Timmy Jernigan cleared to return to practice

The Philadelphia Eagles announced that defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan returned to practice on Monday for the first time this season. 

Jernigan was very productive early in the season last year, earning himself a lucrative contract extension, but his play tailed off a bit down the stretch. During the offseason, Jernigan had surgery to repair a herniated disk. How he injured himself remains a mystery, as Jernigan has not spoken with the media since last season, and the Eagles have provided nothing in the way of useful details on the matter.

Jernigan started the season on the NFI (non-football injury) list, and guarantees in his contract were lost as a result. The NFI list is essentially an extension of the PUP list, meaning Jernigan was required to miss the first six weeks of the season. At any time after those six weeks, Jernigan was eligible to begin practicing for the duration of three weeks, at which point the Eagles would have to decide to add him to the active 53-man roster or shut him down for the season. That three-week clock begins Monday.

In his absence, Jernigan has been replaced in the lineup by a whole bunch of bodies who, on the whole, have not produced. Here is what the Eagles have gotten from their defensive tackles not named Fletcher Cox:

Player 2018 snap count Tackles Sacks FF-FR 
 Destiny Vaeao157 0-0 
 Haloti Ngata143 0-0 
 Treyvon Hester75 0-0 
 Bruce Hector51 0.5 0-0 
TOTAL 426 14 2.5 0-0 

Obviously, 14 tackles on 426 total snaps (one tackle every 30-plus snaps) is not good. Jernigan, unlike the defensive tackles in the graph above, is a multi-dimensional DT who can play both the pass and the run.

"That's why we liked him, that's why we traded for him," Jim Schwartz said. "That's why we re-signed him last year. He was a big part of our success last year. He didn't rush a lot on third down. He had some in there, but he was a guy who could win a one-on-one away from Fletch, which means an awful lot, and he's also a guy who is very stout against the run. He also has good enough lateral ability that he can make a sideline-to-sideline play, and make some tackles for losses. 

"I think he's also a guy who brings energy to us on defense. He just loves to play. He's tough, he plays with some personality, and when we're able to get him back that'll be as welcomed as his physical talents."

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