If Andre Branch's production matches his confidence, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be set at defensive end for years.
Filling their biggest remaining need, the Jaguars selected the former Clemson standout in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night.
"I feel like I can't be blocked one on one," Branch said on a conference call. "With that mentality, I know I can't be stopped."
The Jaguars took Branch with the 38th overall pick in the three-day draft, landing him with the sixth choice in the second round. The 6-foot-4, 259-pound pass rusher had 10 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss last season, but has been criticized for inconsistency over his four-year career. He started 27 games over four seasons, finishing his college career with 197 tackles, 17 ½ sacks and 41 quarterback pressures.
Jacksonville believes outspoken defensive line coach Joe Cullen will get be able to get the most out of Branch.
The Jaguars desperately needed help on the defensive line. Veteran Aaron Kampman has missed 15 games the last two season because of injuries. Fellow ends John Chick, Austen Lane and Aaron Morgan also are coming off injuries. The Jaguars ranked sixth in the league in total defense and had 31 sacks in 2011, up from 26 the previous year. But they have longed been searching for a top-flight pass rusher.
Branch could be the guy.
Terry McDonough, the team's director of pro personnel, said Branch eventually will be a starter opposite Jeremy Mincey.
Branch expects it to happen quickly.
"They needed a pass rusher and I know I'm a great pass rusher, so I know I'll be a great fit for them," he said while surrounding by family and friends in Richmond, Va. "My expectations are to get off the plane running. I just want to show everybody that I'm a hard worker and that we can go make the Jaguars better."
Cullen said Branch plays like a less-powerful version of New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 16 ½ sacks last season.
"There are a lot of things about him that I liked," Cullen said. "One, he had a great motor. He was relentless, played hard. He had the ability sometimes as an edge rusher. Some guys can beat the tackle with speed. He could beat him with speed. He had the ability to bend, ability to finish plays. Some guys look good, but they always get run by the quarterback. He had the ability to drop his shoulder and close on the quarterback.
"He had good power at times. He didn't use his power as much as I think he should have, but that's something he can use here. And he played hard. That was a big thing. And the thing that kept coming up ... toughness kept coming up."
Cullen watched Branch from the floor of the NFL combine and interviewed him at length. Something that stood out was Branch's confidence.
"Very confident in his abilities," Cullen said. "He's a competitor. He's not going to back down from anything."
Where does Branch get his assertiveness from?
"I'm an only child and my parents always told me I would be my biggest judge, and at the end of the day, I know who I am as a player and a person," he said. "It's definitely not anything cocky at all. It's just all confidence."
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