If Branch is good, Jaguars can be a top D

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
7:48
PM ET
If the Jacksonville Jaguars can boost quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s play to roughly average, I think they’ll be significantly better in Mike Mularkey’s first year as coach.

Branch
Branch
I’m tempted to call their draft a success after just two picks: Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, selected fifth after a trade up, and Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, whom they just took 38th overall.

Says Scouts Inc.:
Pros: Quick first step. Consistently gains advantage with initial burst when he times snap correctly. Plays under control. Shows good leverage out of stance. Shows the ability to shave the edge with almost no wasted steps. Has experience playing left side and right side -- both with hand in dirt and in two-point stance. Shows good awareness as a pass-rusher. Realizes when he's not getting pressure on the QB and affects passing windows by getting hands up.

Cons: Quickly gains momentum, knows how to turn speed-to-power, but lacks functional lower-body strength to walk most OTs back into QB. Recognition skills are inconsistent, though. Takes the bait too often. Also will be late finding the football in the run game. Snap awareness is a bit inconsistent. Flashes an effective club move but needs to use it more and needs to develop better array of counters.

I’d like to see the Jaguars draft another defensive end somewhere soon.

If defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who calls his guys rushmen, can coach Branch up and get first-year pass-rush impact from him and/or another selection, the Jaguars stand a chance to be one of the league’s best defenses if they remain healthy.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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