Losing Tim Jernigan is a serious blow for the Eagles defense. Fortunately, their offseason moves give them enough depth to cover for his absence.
The Philadelphia Eagles are anxious to begin their Super Bowl defense, but they’re going to be forced to do it without a key defensive piece. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tim Jernigan will be missing a significant portion of the 2018 season.
NFL.com is reporting that Jernigan is set to miss between four and six months of action after undergoing surgery on a herniated disc. The news certainly is a negative for the Eagles. He started almost every game for the team last season and they rewarded him with a sizable new contract. Jernigan is clearly a meaningful part of their future plans.
Fortunately, Philadelphia spent serious resources this offseason adding talent to their defensive front. They didn’t do so with the idea that Jernigan might miss time, but it will serve to help the team deal with his injury.
Specifically, the Eagles’ decision to add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett this offseason will soften the blow. Bennett, in particular can help replace some of the pass rush Jernigan offered last year. Ngata won’t rack up sacks, but he will help collapse the center of the line on run downs.
Even before their offseason signings, Philadelphia was blessed with an abundance of other talented players along their defensive line. Fletcher Cox is one of the most disruptive defensive lineman in the game today. He will face more double teams without Jernigan lining up beside him, but he should remain a very productive NFL player.
The real area of the team that will need to step up in Jernigan’s absence is the pass rush. The Eagles have several talented options there that can pick up their performance this season. Former Tennessee star Derek Barnett will certainly feel more pressure than he did as a rookie. He has the talent to produce double-digit sacks for the Eagles defense, but he’ll need to step up to achieve that level of production.
Don’t count out Josh Sweat’s chance to step right into the Philadelphia front seven. He suffered through a variety of injuries during his career at Florida State, but he’s hoping to finally get things right in the NFL. Sweat will serve as a real wild card in Philadelphia’s quest to replace Jernigan’s production.
In a strange way, Jernigan’s injury could serve as a long-term positive for the Eagles front line. It’s very possible that he can return later in the year for his team. That will give plenty of his teammates the chance to grow and develop in his absence. By the time Jernigan returns he could join a front with even more ability than last year’s group. That is seriously bad news for teams looking to unseat the defending Super Bowl champions.