Andre Branch: Defensive Wild-Card


November 25, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (90) reacts after the Tennessee Titans miss a field goal during the game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

After moving up to get Justin Blackmon fifth overall in 2012, Gene Smith snagged defensive end Andre Branch early in the second round. At the time, Branch was considered a steal in the second round as many analysts had Branch as a mid-to-late first round pick.

"They needed to get a defensive end and they did. I really like this pick. He was an underrated player in this draft.– Pete Prisco A big-time need pick for the Jaguars… Now they have their hybrid defender who has to get into the backfield on a consistent basis.– College Football News"

Branch flashed in training camp last year and looked prime to make a huge impact his first season in the NFL. Unfortunately, Branch had trouble transitioning to the physicality and speed of professional offensive lineman. In 13 games last year, Branch had only one sack and 12 tackles. He had 14 combined quarterback sacks, hits and hurries.

Branch was viewed as a hybrid stand-up linebacker/defensive end prospect coming out of Clemson, but Smith clearly viewed him as a 4-3 defensive end and tried force him into Mel Tucker’s scheme. Branch didn’t have the pure strength to deal with NFL tackles on every down and struggled to make an impact on obvious passing situations after have to expend himself on run downs.

Thankfully, it seems the new regime and coaching staff is planning to use a fresh, novel approach with its young talent – scheming for the players on the roster rather than forcing them to play out of position. Gus Bradley utilized the much talked about LEO position in Seattle with Bruce Irvin. The LEO is usually a hybrid defensive end/linebacker who is moved around to put the player in a favorable pass rush matchup. Two players fit that description for the Jaguars – Jason Babin and Andre Branch. Branch should be in a much more familiar situation this year and fans should expect his production to increase significantly from his disappointing rookie season.

– Daniel Lago

Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89