Hello Giants fans! So today's player profile is on my man Jerrel Jernigan. JJ12 is a guy that I'm really pulling for to win the third Wide Receiver spot that Mario Manningham vacated by taking off to Frisco. This third round draft pick from Troy doesn't get a lot of publicity or recognition and isn't even considered to be a real contender in the battle for Mario Manningham's spot. So I'd like to take a look at why I think JJ12 has a real chance of winning this training camp battle and stepping up to the plate this year.
Always fun to see a picture of a Giant embarrassing a Patriot, yeah? Anyway I realize that JJ12 is not exactly a large man, but size doesn't always matter in the NFL. Our very own breakout star Victor Cruz stacks up to be about 6 foot even and a little over 200 pounds.Sometimes speed kills. And JJ12 has a whole lot of speed.
Now unlike my last player profile, Jerrel Jernigan doesn't have a very dramatic story to get involved in. He's a 23 year old from Eufaula, Alabama. He stands at an unimpressive 5'8 and weighs 190 pounds at the very most. While he didn't go to a powerhouse football school, Troy has produced a few notable NFL players (Osi Umenyiora sound familiar?). In college Jernigan set many records, so many in fact that the only Troy Wide Receiver he could surpass in his senior year was himself. He caught 84 passes in his senior year, and found the endzone six times in the process. He also contributed to Troy's Special Teams unit by returning 67 kicks for 1,580 yards, this averaging out to 23.6 yards per return over his four year career. While Jernigan didn't have a single reception in the NFL last year, we can't be too surprised by that. Coughlin doesn't use rookies unless injuries force his hand. Also our depth at Wide Receiver last year was pretty damn good, with the Big Three of Nicks, Cruuuuuuz, and Manningham helping Eli on his way to the Superbowl. Jerrel was able to contribute on Special Teams though, he was the Kick Returner for eight games, averaging 23.3 yards on eight returns.
I'll be honest. I used to not be a big JJ12 fan. I didn't like the height/weight combination and I was clinging to the dream of Ramses Barden stepping up big last year. But I've looked over our roster and I have to say I really like JJ12 to make an impact as a receiver on our team. Kevin Gilbride gave him a left handed compliment when asked about Jernigan.
"I am waiting, you see it, it is there. There is some quickness and some speed and an ability level that you want to see show up on the field in a consistent way."
Now Gilbride doesn't usually gush about players, so I think this is a pretty good compliment coming from him. And Jernigan does have that quickness and speed that Gilbride is referring to. At his NFL Combine he ran a 4.46 40 yard dash and recorded a 7.07 second cone drill. While his height and arm length prevent him from having a huge catching radius, he obviously has the ability to be a burner and create separation due to his speed and fluidity of his hips.
If Jernigan can show the consistency that Gilbride spoke of I don't see why he shouldn't be in the mix for the 3rd Wide Receiver spot this year. The Giants have made many moves to make the team faster and quicker, the evidence of that being in draft picks such as Adrien Robinson, David Wilson, Jayron Hosely, and Da'Rel Scott. Jernigan fits in well with this Giants youth/speed movement and should be given a few looks in training camp. Even if he doesn't win the battle for the third receiver spot, he should be in contention for the kick return job, seeing as he took over those duties a little more than halfway through the season and did a fairly reasonable job.
Why He Could Win The Spot
While Jernigan may have a lot of competition in front of him for the third Wide Receiver spot, he has a few points going in his favor that place him over the others. The first of course is his speed. Hixon and Barden can't touch Jernigan when it comes to speed. Randle is pretty fast, but in a footrace I'd still put my money on Jernigan. Hixon has had numerous knee/ligament injuries and that will really slow him down. While Barden isn't necessarily slow for a big guy he does seem to have a few problems creating separation in his routes. Now as a prospect I like Ruben Randle a lot better, but he is a rookie and I doubt he'll be given the third receiver role unless absolutely none of these guys show anything either in camp or during the season.
Another reason I like Jernigan for this spot is because I think that he would make a great slot player in our offense. Last year we saw Victor Cruz line up in the slot a good amount and he was able to do a lot of things that other slot receivers usually don't do. In my mind a prototypical slot receiver is what Steve Smith was when he was on the Giants. The slot usually is a possession receiver that runs good routes, has reliable hands, and picks up those critical third downs. While Cruz did all of that, he was also able to produce a whole hell of a lot of yards after the catch. Using his speed and shiftiness he was able to make defenders miss and pick up many good chunks of yardage. I feel that Jernigan has the potential to be the same kind of player in the slot. If Jernigan is able to make use of his tools, he won't have to worry about press coverage (something he struggles at due to his size) and will be able to be a Cruz-like player in the slot, producing a lot of YAC for our offense. If Jernigan did win the spot, the offense would have the potential to be extremely productive having Nicks and Cruz on the outside drawing double coverage while Jerrel could work the middle of the field, gaining extra yards by out-sprinting Linebackers or slot corners depending on the package.
After looking at Jernigan more closely than I had before, I found another advantage that Jernigan could exploit in this battle for Manningham's former spot. While Troy may not have been a powerhouse, they ran a very pass-friendly offense. In a spread offense Jernigan had to learn many different routes and passing situations. In a very complicated Gilbride offense, it's imperative that our receivers have a good football IQ and are able to understand many different complex passing plays. This is a big reason Cruz was so successful, he was able to understand our offense and make a good connection with Eli. Having a passing background in college should help Jernigan in adjusting to Gilbride's offense.
Now there weren't as many videos available on Jernigan as there were Herzlich due to the small school, but I was able to find at least one good video after roaming around on Youtube long enough. Anyway in this video against Ohio, I think JJ12 really emphasizes my point on speed and elusiveness. As you will see, Troy does some work out of the wildcat and Jerrel was able to pick up yards from the RB position behind the line of scrimmage, so imagine getting him into open field.
Another thing to note is that even though he's a small guy, Jernigan doesn't seem to be afraid of contact. He ran hard when he was given the ball in the wildcat and he showed no hesitance going over the middle to catch a pass. I like that.
One last thing that I found interesting, when Jernigan was returning punts he seemed to have a good idea of when to fair catch and when to try turning it upfield. While that may seem like a trivial thing it shows that he has some common sense and isn't as liable to do something stupid and wind up making a costly error.
While Jernigan may be the dark horse to win the third Wide Receiver spot this year, I'll still be pulling for him. He has a skill set that I'd really like to see be put into action on our offense. He has a chance if he shows up in training camp this year, Barden is not one of the coaches favorites and Hixon has a troubling injury history. He also has a year of seniority on Randle if that means anything at all. So leave any comments you may have and if yall have a particular guy you might want me to do a profile on just say so, I'm just picking players at random for the most part.