December 31, 2019
Heading into the 2019 season, it looked like the Eagles were going to be stacked at the defensive tackle spot, at least on paper. The Eagles invested decent money in Malik Jackson in free agency to pair with Fletcher Cox on the interior, and they fortified their depth by re-signing Timmy Jernigan and trading a late-round pick for Hassan Ridgeway.
However, like their much more publicized wide receiver position, the Eagles suffered some crucial injuries at DT. Jackson played one game before being lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury, and Ridgeway would follow soon after with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, with Cox having a down year (comparatively speaking) and Jernigan perhaps still not the same player he was at times in 2017 as a result of a back injury, the Eagles have not gotten the type of play they expected from their defensive interior.
On the season, Cox "only" had 40 tackles (5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, and 10 hits on the QB, which were way down from his previous four seasons. And yet, Cox's numbers dwarfed those of the next closest DT in each category this season, heading into Sunday's game against the Giants:
• Tackles: Anthony Rush, 8
• Sacks: Hassan Ridgeway, 2
• Tackles for loss: Ridgeway: 4.5
• QB hits: Ridgeway, 4
Jernigan had been particularly quiet, registering just 7 tackles (2 for loss), 1 sack, and 2 QB hits on 281 defensive snaps before this past Sunday.
Against the Giants, however, Jernigan had his best game of the season.
"Timmy has been really on the rise and has been playing some impactful ball for us over these last few weeks," Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday.
A look at what he did against the Giants, in chronological order:
1) Jernigan will eventually get thrown to the ground by Will Hernandez, but not before getting 6-7 yards into the backfield at a spot where Daniel Jones is delivering the football. That's still disruption.
2) The Giants ask Hernandez to execute a reach block on Jernigan, but forget it. Jernigan crashes into the backfield, where he and Brandon Graham destroy this play.
3) This was on a 3rd and 1, and it's one of the most impressive defensive plays of the season. Jernigan throws the center to the ground, jumps over him, and then not only tackles Saquon Barkley, but also does not allow him to fall forward. Outstanding.
4) Nate Solder (76) is trying to come across to at least get a piece of Jernigan, but Jernigan gets such a good jump at the snap that Solder completely whiffs. The play goes away from Jernigan, but he still gets in on the tackle.
5) And finally, Jernigan's sack isn't anything special, but he's pushing the pocket while keeping his eye on the prize, and when Jones moves to avoid a great inside spin move by Derek Barnett, Jernigan does a great job disengaging from the center and putting a good smack on Jones.
If the Eagles can get this kind of play from Jernigan in the playoffs, especially against a weak Seattle interior OL, they're going to be tough to block across the board.
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