Upon his arrival at the Ravens' training complex in May, rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan expressed a determination to quickly prove himself.
Although there's no contact allowed until training camp, Jernigan already has shown an aggressive personality on the practice field, with a willingness to mix it up that has left an impression with the Ravens' veteran blockers.
Through two organized team activities and a rookie minicamp, Jernigan's quick first step and ability to gain leverage has made him difficult to slow. The 6-foot-1, 302-pound second-round draft pick from Florida State also has gotten into a few scrapes with offensive linemen and engaged in his share of trash talk.
"Jernigan, the young guy, he's flashing a lot," offensive guard Kelechi Osemele said this week. "He's playing fast, especially for being a young guy, and being thrown in there with the [first-teamers] every now and then and it being a new system and everything. He's coming along really well. We really need him to contribute this year, and I think he has the ability to do that."
The Ravens selected Jernigan after losing starting defensive tackle Arthur Jones to the Indianapolis Colts in March when he signed a five-year, $33 million contract.
There's a starting job open on the left side of the defensive line, and Jernigan is among the top candidates along with Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore. The Ravens also could shift over Pro Bowl nose guard Haloti Ngata and have Williams play nose tackle.
Jernigan is something of a wild card in the competition. Heading into the draft, he was a projected fit in 4-3 defensive schemes; the Ravens run a 3-4 alignment.
But Jernigan's athleticism (4.97 seconds in the 40-yard dash), strength (bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times) and playmaking skills (139 career tackles, 25 for losses, and 8.5 sacks) could allow him to make an early impact.
When asked how he thinks Jernigan has performed so far, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe said: "Good. That kid is really quick-twitch, really explosive and strong. When they introduced all of the rookies in our first meeting, they put on a clip of him, and he just bench-pressed a guy, threw him off and made a tackle. Hopefully, we can get a lot of that out of him.”
Jernigan fell out of the first round and was selected 48th overall after providing a diluted drug test specimen at the NFL scouting combine, which he and his agent attributed to hydration issues. The Ravens did their homework on Jernigan at Florida State and felt comfortable drafting him.
Jernigan, who had 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as an All-American and All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, is signed to a four-year, $4.382 million contract that includes $2.126 million guaranteed and a $1.507 million signing bonus.
"The only thing I'm worried about is playing football and winning football games," Jernigan said during the Ravens' rookie minicamp. "After a while, I feel like the more I play, I'll be able to prove my point. I'm not going to get in any trouble. I'm walking a straight line. I'm just ready to play ball."