The Jacksonville Jaguars selected defensive end Andre Branch in the second-round of the 2012 NFL Draft and have seen some early returns so far in the 2012 preseason. Branch was competing for the starting left end position with Austen Lane, but Lane injured his foot in training camp and Branch has been working with the first team ever since.
In that time, Branch has impressed fans and coaches with his ability to play the run and has done a nice job early on with his speed rush off the edge, picking up a sack against the New Orleans Saints. He struggled against the Baltimore Ravens flipping back and forth from right to left end, but overall has looked good in the preseason
Pro Football Focus had an interesting breakdown of Branch's performance thus far in the preseason.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were looking for a three-down defensive end to start opposite Jeremy Mincey, and Andre Branch has been given the opportunity to fill that vacancy. He's got plenty of plays against the first units of the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints, but he was generally quiet as a pass rusher against the first-team offensive tackles. The Giants' Sean Locklear handled him well, while the Saints' Jermon Bushrod also held him in check. Branch did show some explosiveness off the edge, but he did so against the backups for each team.
In his two games, he's pressured the quarterback on four of his 31 pass rush attempts, including a sack that came on a stunt with Mincey against the Saints. In the running game he showed the ability to fight off blocks, so he should be able to contribute on early downs as he develops his pass rushing repertoire. One other element to keep an eye on is Branch's ability to drop back in coverage as the Jaguars did so three times against the Saints, perhaps a sign that the zone blitz will be a big part of the arsenal in Jacksonville this season.
I wouldn't be shocked to see elements of zone blitzing out of Mel Tucker, as he's shown some of these modified and hybrid 3-4 looks in the past.