In late May, Timmy Jernigan was already brimming with confidence and swagger when he said the following words: “I believe in Timmy.”
About a week into training camp, he’s making believers out of a bunch of folks.
After a few days of Jernigan’s being a disruptive force in the middle of the Eagles’ defensive line, Jim Schwartz declared that the 26-year-old defensive tackle “looks as good, if not better” than he’s ever seen him.
If that’s the case, the interior of the Eagles’ defensive line — with Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson — could be even scarier than we thought.
I feel good. I’m just happy to be playing football,” Jernigan said. “I went through a phase where it kind of went back to a dream for me, having dreams about making big plays, not knowing if I would ever get a chance to be on the field again.
It means a lot more to me now. I’m just happy to kind of have my first love back, you know what I mean?
Since that surgery in the 2018 offseason, Jernigan has certainly had a much different outlook on football; he’s just happy to be back out there. And it shows.
So why does Jernigan look so good this summer?
Well, for starters, he’s finally healthy. That hasn’t happened since early in the 2017 season. That year, Jernigan suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 6 and played the rest of the year, through the Super Bowl, with it. And then last year, a still-mysterious and possibly career-threatening offseason back injury and surgery kept him out until late November. When he finally returned to game action, he did so after just six times lifting weights and two times running. He was healthy, but not really in game shape.
It’s also important to remember that the best we’ve ever seen of Jernigan with the Eagles came early in that 2017 season, when he was still making a transition from a more passive Ravens defense to Schwartz’s aggressive front.
Well, now Jernigan is finally healthy and has been in the Eagles’ scheme going on his third season. If you want to pump the brakes, it’s understandable. But it’s also not completely out of the realm of possibility that we haven’t yet seen the best of Jernigan in an Eagles uniform. That’s even more amazing when you stop to think about how much of a bargain his one-year deal is for 2019.
This offseason, the Eagles brought in Jackson as a free agent and it’s been expected that he’ll be the starter next to Cox when Cox finally returns to practice (he’s still healing from offseason surgery). Perhaps Jackson will become a third-down specialist and he and Jernigan can split first and second downs. How the rotation will work is still up in the air. But based on Jernigan’s play so far, he needs to be a part of it.
“It’s a fire that burns inside me,” Jernigan said. “I want it more than ever right now. My eyes are definitely open. I’m just happy to be a part of the team again.”
If he keeps this up, he’ll be a pretty big part of it.
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