Last year was a good year for defensive tackles in round one.
Sheldon Richardson (#13 overall) is a future star. When the Jets inevitably move on from Rex Ryan next year and switch to the 4-3, he’ll be dynamic as hell.
Star Lotulelei (#14 overall) had to be checked for suspected heart problems at the combine. Although he was cleared, there’s a chance the stigma carried him into the teens in April. We witnessed on Sunday how disruptive he can be. What a steal for the Panthers.
Sharrif Floyd (#23 overall) was a trendy pick to go in the top five. Short arms plus a lack of pure production and nasty streak led to a fall. Yet he had enough athletic upside to warrant a pick in the 20’s.
Two other pass rushing interior lineman followed quickly — Sly Williams and Kawann Short. You don’t get many drafts with five defensive tackles going in the top-45.
And we almost certainly won’t see it in 2014.
It’s early, but already it’s looking like an miserly group of defensive tackles next year.
Louis Nix is a stud at Notre Dame and could be a top ten pick at the all important nose tackle position. After that, the options aren’t great. Some people like Will Sutton at Arizona State but I’m not a big fan. I’ve not seen enough of LSU’s Anthony Johnson to judge but watching the Tigers last year, nobody looked as good as 2012 first rounder Michael Brockers.
Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is the only other player currently on the radar until others emerge. And Jernigan is one of the more frustrating players you’ll see this year.
(EDIT — ironically, after writing this piece, I watched tape of one of the best DT performances I’ve seen in a long time… from a name not listed here. More tomorrow).
At 6-2 and 294lbs he looks the part. He’s clearly an athlete. He flashes the occasional pass rush move that makes you sit up and take notice. Yet his overall effort just seems lethargic. He’s not a relentless, beastly tackle like Sheldon Richardson. He lacks the unique physical qualities of Star Lotulelei. He doesn’t have the production of a Kawann Short.
Jernigan’s a player who shows you a bit of leg then runs a mile when you offer to buy a drink.
We’ve seen it before with FSU linemen. It’s hard to explain why. In recent years we’ve seen a handful of players who flatter to deceive.
It’s only four years ago that Carolina gifted San Francisco a first round pick to get back into round two to select Everette Brown. In a 23-sack career with the Seminoles, Brown looked the part as an exciting edge rusher. He used to split out wide and rush from all angles. He did a great job, winning on athleticism rather than effort or technique.
At one point he was considered a possible top-15 pick. At the combine he measured just under 6-2 instead of Florida State’s listed 6-4, and the doubters grew. He ran a 4.65 at 256lbs.
The Panthers were looking for a long term replacement for Julius Peppers, who was demanding a trade and seemed destined to leave when his contract expired. Carolina bought what Everette Brown was selling and made a deal.
In return the Niners got Mike Iupati and went on to build the best offensive line in football.
Jernigan kind of reminds me of Brown. They both flirt with brilliance. The athletic potential is there. But the little things that make a complete player are lacking.
Brown’s athletic qualities didn’t stand out as much in the NFL. His technique was poor, he took such wide angles in college that he rarely had to engage a tackle or beat him with hand placement. Where was the relentless motor? He had just two years in Carolina before bouncing around the league. He recently had a camp with Philadelphia, but was released on cut-day.
I’m not saying Jernigan will have a similar career, but every time I see him I notice similar traits. Quality athletic potential, but a lack of technique, motor and consistency.
His play is largely unimpressive. He gets pushed around, he doesn’t show a nasty streak. He’s not consistently causing problems for an offensive line. One thing the Seahawks will look for in a tackle is the ability to push the blocker into the pocket, even if they don’t shoot a hole themselves. Jernigan doesn’t do that. He’s really powderpuff at times.
I almost switched off the video above after a few minutes. It was the same old Timmy Jernigan display.
Then at 4:26 he makes a play. He gets away from the center and stops the running back down for a loss.
I keep watching.
At 5:10 he gets off a block and sees a route to the quarterback. He turns on the jets big time and flies into the QB. It’s the kind of pursuit you don’t often see from a guy that size. Big sack. Impressive play.
And you want to start believing again.
Jernigan has the athletic potential to be very effective. If he can find an edge — a nasty streak — and just be a complete pain in the ass when he’s not flashing genuine athletic quality, then he has a shot.
However, at the moment he coasts along games waiting for his chance. And that’s not good enough. Until this improves, I just can’t get excited about seeing him in Seattle. But the potential is there. Which is why he’s a difficult guy to project.