OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Based on last week’s conference call and his first meeting with the media in Owings Mills on Friday, it’s clear that Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has a chip on his shoulder.
Slipping to the second round and the 48th overall selection before general manager Ozzie Newsome finally snatched him up, Jernigan is out to silence criticism over a diluted drug test sample at the NFL scouting combine in February and doubts over whether he has the size and stamina to thrive at the next level despite a successful career at Florida State. The Ravens have said they were comfortable with Jernigan’s explanation for his diluted sample — claiming he was counteracting problems with cramping and dehydration — and graded the 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman as a first-round talent on their draft board.
They now hope he — along with 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams — can help fill the void left behind by free-agent departure Arthur Jones along the defensive line. Jernigan is viewed as an option at either nose tackle or the 3-technique that lines up on the outside shoulder of the opposing guard.
“I just want to be the best I can be. It’s clear to see I was a great run-stopper in college,” Jernigan said. “I didn’t really get a chance to show off my pass-rushing abilities, because I played in a two-gap scheme. Now I feel like I’m in the right type of defense that is really going to turn me loose and showcase my ability.”
Jernigan was an Associated Press second-team All-American for the national champion Seminoles, collecting a career-high 63 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 2013. However, he will be expected to show more pass-rushing ability in addition to his strong play against the run that he displayed in college.
Some of the doubts about Jernigan are reminiscent of 2006 first-round pick Haloti Ngata, who was accused by some of taking plays off and not playing with full effort at the University of Oregon. Eight years and five Pro Bowl selections later, it’s safe to say the Ravens chose wisely in drafting Ngata to anchor their defensive line.
Now, Jernigan is looking forward to reaping the benefits from playing next to the 30-year-old lineman.
“It’s a blessing to play with another great defensive tackle,” Jernigan said. “It’s a defensive lineman’s dream to be able to play with a great player beside him. It definitely will take a whole bunch of pressure off me, and he’ll definitely be a great person to learn from.”
Gillmore different breed at tight end position
The Ravens raised eyebrows by not selecting an offensive player until late in the third round of last weekend’s draft when Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore was finally called.
Of course, tight end wasn’t considered a position of major need after the organization re-signed Dennis Pitta to a five-year contract and inked veteran Owen Daniels to a one-year deal earlier this offseason, but the desire to have a stronger blocker in the group made Gillmore — who began his college career as a defensive end — an attractive option. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Gillmore will likely be in the mix immediately as a traditional tight end with Pitta and Daniels being better fits to move around in Gary Kubiak’s system.
“A tight end is a guy that can play any position on the field; he just happens to be a bigger body,” Gillmore said. “For me, I think of myself as a blocker with ability to catch the ball. I think championships are still won running the ball and playing defense. So, I’d much rather be considered a blocker that can catch than a receiver that can block.”
Baltimore hopes a season working behind both Pitta and Daniels will help transform Gillmore into a dangerous pass-catching threat in the years to come, but his ability to block would be a major asset to an offensive line that struggled immensely last season.
Seventh-round wide receiver Michael Campanaro is a feel-good story as a Clarksville, Md. native who went on to set Wake Forest’s all-time career mark for receptions, but it’s no secret that he faces an uphill battle to become a productive NFL receiver.
Standing only 5-foot-9, Campanaro doesn’t fit the mold of the perceived necessary stature to thrive at the next level, but the rookie won’t have to look far to find inspiration and tutelage from 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith, who shares the same height while catching more than 800 passes and accumulating more than 12,000 yards over the last 13 years.
“[When] I go out there and I’m with the receivers, Steve and I are definitely the smallest, shortest guys there,” Campanaro said. “He is a Hall of Fame receiver. He’s gotten it done for so many years. So, having a guy like that who I can learn from him and see the little things he does preparing with his game, it’s going to help out a ton.”
Campanaro figures to be in the mix as a punt returner as well as in the slot while Smith is expected to work primarily as an outside receiver as he did during his 13 years with the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens hope the veteran can pass along a few tricks to help offset the obvious size disadvantage that the former Demon Deacon will encounter in not only trying to make the 53-man roster but to eventually contribute in the passing game.