Smiles and celebrations flooded around Lincoln Financial Field following the Eagles’ season-opening victory over Washington. The team not only earned their first win of the new campaign but also mounted their first successful comeback of 2019.
Unfortunately, the euphoria was dampened a bit by some unfortunate injury news. Offseason addition and former Pro Bowler Malik Jackson, who was carted to the locker room in the fourth quarter, was seen in a walking boot following the game. Furthermore, Eagles HC Doug Pederson stated that Jackson suffered a “significant” injury that will sideline him for the foreseeable future.
That injury would later be confirmed as a linsfranc (foot) injury and one that will likely keep Jackson out for the entire 2019 campaign. It’s a tough blow to the defensive tackle spot just one year after a lack of depth cost them sorely. Howie Roseman worked tirelessly to ensure that history won’t repeat itself, but his vision will now be tested.
While this certainly isn’t good news for either Jackson or the Eagles defense, the good news is that the team is equipped with the depth to keep the d-line afloat until his (potential) return. Behind Fletcher Cox, Philly boasts Hassan Ridgeway, Josh Sweat, and, namely, Timmy Jernigan as capable pass-rushing defensive tackles.
Jernigan, notably, started alongside Cox during the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017. The Florida State alumni registered 2.5 sacks and 9 TFL in his debut season in Philly and was a major component in how efficient the Eagles defense was against the run.
Talking of which, the man with 14 sacks during his three-year stint in Baltimore was a huge component of the Eagles run defense on Sunday as well, just as he has been in every game played. The Eagles held Washington to 28 yards on the ground in week one, as Jernigan picked up where he left off in 2018.
The talented defensive tackle wasn’t able to follow up on his productive 2017 campaign where he rallied to 10 QB hurries, 5 QB hits and 1.5 sacks in just nine games, however, as a severe back injury forced him to miss all but five fateful games. Jernigan returned on the cusp of a playoff run, taking a lot of weight off the shoulders of Fletcher Cox, something that was massively needed. His running-mate was happy to see him get off the mark with a sack in the season opener, too.
“I bet it was a sigh of relief for him to come out and get a sack and do what he did right before the half.” Cox said. “It was a big play for our defense to back [the Redskins] up. I was excited to see everybody play today. Really excited.”
Had it not been for a dodgy conversion one play later, Jernigan shoved the Redskins out of field goal territory at the end of the first half with a dominant sack. Unfortunately, his hard work is undone, but Jernigan looks close to his 2017 self…and that is a huge boost for an Eagles team preparing for a stint without Malik Jackson.
We assumed Jernigan would play angrily, but his rampant return surprised a lot of people. This opportunity is a big one for the golden-grilled defensive tackle. After his monster contract was eradicated and he was cut from the team following the injury that cost him most of last season, the Super Bowl 52 champion came back to the Eagles on a deal worth just $1.5m. There was clearly a chip on his shoulder having lost such a strong contract. Jernigan entered OTA’s and Training Camp with anger in his stride, fire in his eyes, and the anger of a Dragon.
Jernigan will once again have the opportunity to thrive alongside Cox and the rest of the fearsome d-line. Back in his former place as a starting defensive tackle, this means war for Jernigan, and a chance to take back what was rightfully his.
With Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers on the upcoming slate for Philly, the team will need to rely on Jernigan’s pass-rushing prowess to keep opposing offenses off-balance.
Already with one sack to his credit in 2018, Jernigan should be able to answer the bell in South Philly.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports