Secret Superstar: Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have been associated with a strong defense throughout their 19 years of existence. Much of that was linked to the 17-year career of Ray Lewis, but in the two years since his retirement, the Ravens’ front seven has remained strong.
This offseason has seen the departure of two of their front seven: Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata. The Ravens have two capable outside linebackers to replace McPhee in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The loss of Haloti Ngata from the defensive line will be felt, but will also be surmountable with the Ravens’ secret superstar Timmy Jernigan coming into form and filling that void.
Ozzie’s Draft Steal
Jernigan’s pre-draft accomplishments are numerous. He was an All-American defensive lineman in High School and was considered one of the best defensive linemen in his class.
In his Freshman year at Florida State he received the Devaugh Darling Award as well as being named Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. In his Junior year he was named First-Team All-ACC by the league’s coaches, and Second-Team All-American by both USA Today and CBS Sports.
Many thought Jernigan would be drafted in the first round, but as fortune often smiles on Ozzie Newsome, he was available for the Ravens with the 48th overall pick.
Jernigan saw a lot of action in preseason, but with mediocre-to-poor results. In his regular season debut, however, he came out strong, being particularly impressive versus the run against the Bengals. He continued his strong performance into Week 2 against the Steelers, where he unfortunately suffered a knee injury that sidelined him until Week 7 against Atlanta.
Jernigan played adequately in his first game back from injury, but really began to flourish in his role over the next three games. He was a standout in that stretch: his 46.2% Run Stop Percentage was the best among 3-4 defensive ends, and as a pass rusher he posted a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 9.8. In Week 8 against Cincinnati, he proved the scouts right by bullying the O-line on many snaps. That was his highest-graded game with Ngata being the only defensive lineman grading higher.
His grade through the first nine games of the season was predominantly due to his success against the run though, and he struggled with the pass rush until Week 9, but from there he put up just one game with a negative grade the rest of the way.
Increased Playing Time
With Ngata being unavailable in the last four games of regular season, Jernigan’s snap count increased from 28% to 56%. He was a starter in three of those four games.
A solid game in Week 14 against Miami, followed by a nice effort against Jacksonville, in which he had an impressive string of three impactful snaps; a QB hit, a tackle on the runner, and a sack.
After a poor performance against the Houston Texans in Week 16, he would pick up an injury the following week and miss the Wild Card round of the playoffs. He returned for the divisional game where he ended his season on an uptick, having his second-highest graded game and recording his fifth sack of the season.
Future Looks Bright
Timmy Jernigan was the third-highest rated DL man for the Ravens in 2014, behind Ngata and Brandon Williams. He saw limited snaps, but did a lot with them; in his position group, he posted the sixth-best Run Stop Percentage (10.1%) and the second-highest Pass Rushing Productivity (9.7). While Ngata still out performed him in many areas, Ngata is 31, while Jernigan is 22.
The Ravens’ GM, Newsome, is one of the best in the League, often replacing a player before the need is felt, all while maximizing the compensary draft picks. It pains every fanbase to see one of their favorites sign with another team, but the Ravens have a good player being developed in Timmy Jernigan.