Jernigan Has Been a Perfect Fit for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — There are times when it's nice being the butt of the joke like say when you just put about $26 million in the bank.
Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan ran the gauntlet at his locker on Monday, awash in a series of barbs at his recently reinforced pocketbook.
"Direct deposit, baby," the always exuberant Brandon Graham lobbed at his linemate.
Showing he's as well-versed in the Eagles' corporate sponsorships as Jim Schwartz's defense, defensive end Chris Long was also at the ready: "Santander Bank [the official bank of Philly's football team], I need to make a deposit."
Jernigan was obviously enjoying the playfulness just four days after cashing a solid start in Philadelphia into a four-year extension which could be worth up to $48 million with $26M of that guaranteed.
"It means a lot," Jernigan said when discussing his new deal. "Especially coming from a place where, in a sense, there were questions marks."
A former second-round pick in Baltimore, Jernigan was ill-suited for the Ravens' 30 front, where you generally have a nose tackle and five-techniques on the D-line inside the edge rushers.
It's not that Jernigan couldn't play that style of football, which is more of a two-gap, read-and-react style for the defensive linemen but he's better suited as a penetrator. In Philadelphia with Jim Schwartz running the defense, Jernigan is now that one-gap explosive payer next to Fletcher Cox as interchangeable parts, playing either the three-technique or on the nose.
It's turned into what exactly Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas were thinking when they moved down 25 spots in the third round of the 2017 draft to pick the final year of Jernigan's rookie deal.
"It feels good that Howie (Roseman) believes in me and Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie believed in me," Jernigan said. "I’m definitely going to make them proud and make sure they know that they made the right decision."
In his first nine games in an Eagles uniform, Jernigan has helped Philadelphia immensely during its NFL-best 8-1 start forming a sturdy interior with Cox that has enabled Schwartz to put together the No. 1 ranked run defense.
"It’s definitely a special group," Jernigan said. "Going out on Sundays, you have no choice but to be productive because you know that the guy beside you is going to do exactly that. So they push me so hard, the same way they feel that I make things better for them, I feel the same way about them."
Moving away from Bennie Logan, who signed as an unrestricted free agent in Kansas City, was a risk for the Eagles' personnel department for a number of reasons.
Logan was not a proven top-tier run-stuffer in Philadelphia but he had a great rapport with Cox, Graham and Vinny Curry. Schwartz's scheme, however, is fueled by the pass rush, particularly the four-man rush and Jernigan shaped up as the better fit on paper, something that has played out so far.
Jernigan has a team-leading eight tackles for loss to go along with 1 1/2 sacks and five hurries.
Considering the Eagles gave Cox over $60 million in guarantees last year, they now have nearly $90M tied up at the defensive tackle position, a testament to the dominance up front.
“That’s my brother," Jernigan said when discussing Cox. "Fletch is a great guy. He’s done nothing but guide me since the day I got here. He’s done nothing but try to help me in every aspect on the field and off the field.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen