Andre Branch: 3 questions for 2015

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Andre Branch had the potential to be the next great pass rusher for the Jacksonville Jaguars when he was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. So far, he’s been a disappointment but, entering his contract season, he could still step it up.

At 6’4″ and 240 pounds, Branch could work his long body around the edge to be s successful LEO for the Jags. While Gus Bradley and his LEO position weren’t around initially, it seems that the third year in his defense will give Branch the opportunity to excel. It’s almost as if the role is built for a guy like Branch to succeed in. With Dante Fowler Jr. out for the year with a torn ACL, Branch may finally get the chance to prove himself worthy as the next edge rusher for the Jaguars.

But it’s all up in the air because, after three seasons, Branch has just 66 tackles to his name and 10 sacks. He’s looking more and more like a rotational guy at best. Can he prove otherwise? Here are some questions for Andre Branch entering the 2015 season.

Dec 15, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) tries to get away from Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (90) during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

1) Can Andre Branch get to the quarterback?

The Jaguars had some nice sack statistics last season but they did not do well exerting pressure on a consistent basis and getting to the quarterback. Sacks are nice, but having consistent pressure can be more important for disrupting an offense.

While Branch didn’t wow anyone with his three sacks in 2014, his six sacks in 2013 give hope that there is the potential to get to the quarterback.

Last season, Branch found himself ranked 39th in pass rush productivity (as measured by Pro Football Focus) of the 55 4-3 defensive ends with at least 50% of snaps. That’s a pretty miserable showing, finding himself as the second-lowest ranked Jaguar on the list. Ryan Davis and the surging Chris Smith were ranked as more productive. All said and told, Branch accounted for just four total pressures as measured by PFF. The year before, PFF credited him with just two total pressures.

Four pressures is pretty much nothing. If Branch hopes to capitalize on increased playing time, he’ll have to prove he can do better than that.

This is the big question for Branch as the Jags reassess whether to keep the fledgling defensive end around. Can he get to the quarterback? So far he hasn’t been able to do so on a consistent basis. He’ll have to really step up his game in 2015.