A situational pass rusher whose role increased as the 2014 season progressed, second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is aiming in training camp to battle the notion that he’s only able to get after the quarterback as he ascends to a starting role in 2015.
Jernigan is set to replace Haloti Ngata, whose space-eating role defending against the run had been integral to the Ravens defense since 2006. Jernigan has been a force in run defense through the first few days of practice, and said he’s more than able to contribute in both phases as a full-time starter.
“I feel really good about the run,” Jernigan said. “At Florida State, I was great playing the run — I played nose then. I came in really knowing how to play it, I think that’s just something people or media came up with — ‘Oh, he can’t play the run as well.’ But you know what, I feel good coming into this year being able to stop the run and the pass.”
Jernigan, the Ravens second-round NFL draft pick in 2014, had four sacks, seven quarterback hits, and a dozen hurries in 191 snaps on pass plays a season ago, according to Pro Football Focus, making him the second-most productive pass rusher at his position behind NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
He rated well in the site’s run-stop grades as well, and Jernigan said he wouldn’t otherwise be an every-down player, as the Ravens expect him to be.
“At the end of the day, there’s no way I’ll be out there if coach felt as if I couldn’t stop the run,” he said. “That’s Rule No. 1: We’ve got to stop the run.”
Jernigan acknowledges he and Ngata are “two totally different players,” but he will need to at least partially replicate his predecessor's run defense to continue a streak the Ravens defense is tremendously proud of — 26 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the league’s longest active streak.
On several instances, Jernigan has done that in training camp. One particular standout play on the first day of padded practices Saturday involved him pushing four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda several steps into the backfield, then shedding Yanda to bring down running back Lorenzo Taliaferro for a loss.
As Jernigan looks to improve on his performance in both phases of the game, he credits the Ravens’ pair of standout guards.
“Going against our guards every day, that’s making me so much better,” Jernigan said. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for Yanda and [Kelechi Osemele]. Those guys give me their best every day, and they’re definitely getting me better every day.”