Tales from the SunnySide: Jammie Kirlew

When Josh McDaniels took on the task of remaking the Denver Broncos into a perennial playoff contender, his approach to player personnel was relatively direct. He put in place manuals for each of the positions that laid out in detail the height, weight and physical characteristics of each of the players that he wanted to see on the field as well as the mental attributes. He also reworked the scouting department, getting them up to speed on the way that they wanted players scouted and the types of skillsets that were valued by the organization. Overall, his approach was simple - he wanted tough, physical, smart versatile players at every slot on the field. With the draft of 2010, one of his final selections seems to be the epitome of that concept.

While a defensive lineman in college, and one who played both the DE and DT positions, Jammie (pronounced JAY-mee) Kirlew is exactly what the coach ordered. Whether or not he has the level of skill to make the leap from college to the NFL is still to be determined. Whether or not Kirlew fits into the outline that the Broncos have drawn is not - it fits him like a glove. One credit that he's earned was putting in place a system from the regional scouts to the tense moments of the draft know, understand their roles within it, and it's producing the kind of players that McDaniels and Xanders like. The further question of whether these are the players that the team can win with is yet to be determined. Jammie Kirlew was on the Denver board as a 5th round player, as was Syd'Quan Thompson. A quick quid pro quo involving the Denver pick in the 2011 draft and both players were slated to wear orange and blue.

Kirlew was born to Henry and Janet Jackson (No, not that one) on May 12, 1987 in Orlando, Florida, where he would attend Cypress Creek High School. Like many NFL players, he garnered several accolades along the way, earning second team all-state as a HS senior tight end and defensive end in football and playing on the school's first district champion basketball team. Since they only had a 28 man football roster, he played DE and LB on defense. On the offensive side, he also played TE, FB, tailback and receiver. Junior year, he played TE, DE and WR. As a senior, he moved to FB and tailback during goal line situations on offense. He was more of a LB on defense that year, although he also played DE. He couldn't know it at the time, but his chance to make it in the NFL would be borne on that combination of positions. He would come from DE, and he was chosen to be an OLB and a special teams blocker.

When it came time for him to decide on a college, football wasn't the first issue on his list. Although making it to the NFL had been a dream of his since childhood, Kirlew knew even then that there is life after football, and that a promising career can end with a single freak injury. He was dedicated to the idea that his time in college would reflect his own principles as a student-athlete, and for him, that meant that 'student' was destined to come first. He chose Indiana University and began the effort of finishing a double major with degrees in SPEA management and public financial management in December 2009 as well as his time in football. As part of his training, he spent the summer of his 2007 season in Florence Italy on the IU International Student Program in the business department. Jammie Kirlew is one very smart young man.

As you look over his predraft scouting reports, certain things tend to jump out at you. Over and again, regardless of the source, you read things like "High motor. Never quits. Well prepared, reads his keys and plays with discipline. Will keep outside containment. Knows his assignments and will execute. Great motor. nfl.com added, "He is a tough, hardnosed player with great work ethic and intelligence. He plays with a high motor and wins with effort and technique more than athleticism."

Kirlew also used his college years to establish himself as a person. Two summers ago he took the time to travel to Florence Italy on a student exchange program. He is active in politics and worked for the Barack Obama campaign. He is active in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and he likes to spend time with his 'little' as he calls him. They like to go to the movies, golf, bowl, and play video games. After his NFL career ends, he plans to return to school and finish law school. You probably don't want to bet against him. This is from his Senior Class Awards page:

Kirlew was named to the 2009 watch lists for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award and the Bednarik Award. He was selected first team All-Big Ten by Lindy's preseason magazine and Sporting News and preseason All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports. He is also rated the eighth-best defensive end in the country by Lindy's. One of six finalists for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award in 2008, Kirlew was voted first team All-Big Ten by the conference media and second team by the league's coaches. He received honorable mention SI.com All-American and second team Rivals.com All-Big Ten honors. Kirlew also received the team's Anthony Thompson MVP Award, collected the team's outstanding defensive lineman award and was named the team's defensive player of the year. He finished the season with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, both ranked fourth on Indiana's single-season list. He was second in the Big Ten and tied for 14th nationally in sacks and third in the league and sixth nationally in tackles for loss. He paced the conference during league play in tackles for loss and shared third in sacks. Currently, he is tied for fourth on IU's career tackles for loss chart with 37.0 and sits a half-sack out of fifth place with 16.5 career sacks. His 19.5 tackles for loss in 2008 were the most by a Hoosier since current Chicago Bear Adewale Ogunleye's 21.0 in 1997. He was named to the 11-player Allstate AFCA Good Works Team in 2009 and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection during all four years of his playing career at IU (2006-'09).

This comes from the end of his 2008, 'junior' year: "DE Jammie Kirlew was one of the surprises of the 2008 season, leading the Hoosiers in sacks with 10.5, good enough to rank him 14th in the nation. He's no longer an unknown quantity and will draw plenty of attention from opponents, but his presence can help open opportunities for fellow DE Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks two years ago, to rebound from his rough '08. Kirlew also is a team leader who likely will emerge as a captain come the fall" (he did, by the way).

As the above blurb suggested, Kirlew had become a force to be reckoned with on the football field. As was also predicted, he was named a captain his senior year, and he took his role as a leader on that football team seriously: his work ethic on and off the field was second to none. A believer in leading by example, Kirlew was one of the first to arrive at practice each day and one of the last to leave; he was also quick to lend a guiding hand to the younger players on the team. He spent the summer of 2009 acting as one of the leaders (in a good sense), calling on players and getting his teammates to work out and condition when the coaches did not have access to the players.

By the time he graduated from school, Jammie had earned All-Big Ten Conference honors during each of his final two seasons at Indiana, where he tied for third on the school's all-time sacks list (23) and tied for second on its all-time tackles for loss list (52.5). As noted above, he was teamed up with Greg Middleton on the DL, and while Kirlew's sacks grew, Middleton's dropped off from his league leading production in 2007.

As a senior, Kirlew tied for sixth in the nation with five forced fumbles in addition to posting three fumble recoveries, 62 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a second-team all-conference choice.Kirlew also received the team's Anthony Thompson MVP Award, collected the team's outstanding defensive lineman award and was named the team's defensive player of the year. Kirlew was also invited to the Texas vs. the Nation game, in which he played well. He was also named a member of the 11-player Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and one of 10 finalists for the ARA Sportsmanship Award. He was also a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award (achievements in the classroom, character, community and competition). His level of character at this point has been beyond reproach. His on-field achievements back it up.

When you read his predraft scouting reports, there are certain words and patterns that start to jump out at you:

Can't fault his effort. Relentless in pursuit and never gives up chasing the QB. Shows some decent closing burst when he has a line to the QB. Well prepared, reads his keys and plays with discipline. Will keep outside containment. Knows his assignments and will execute. Great motor. Person of good character. Great worker on and off the field.

PRO DAY RESULTS: In addition to Saffold, four other notable Hoosiers also worked out. DE Jammie Kirlew (6-1 1/4, 261) ran a pair of 5.03 40-yard dashes, had a 34-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot, 2-inch broad jump, a 4.65 short shuttle, a 7.49 three-cone drill, and 29 bench press reps. - Gil Brandt, NFL.com

02/16/2010 - PRO POTENTIAL: DE Jammie Kirlew got better each year at IU, and his high motor and high football IQ set him apart. He's not as speedy as a lot of other prospects, but he's a student of the game who never stops working. Although Kirlew isn't the biggest, fastest or most fluid defensive player in this draft, his motor and excellent character will endear him to scouts looking for a Robert Mathis-type pass rushing end for their team.

Pass rush: Gives consistent effort during the play and throughout the game, attacking the quarterback until he releases the ball. Can beat tackles with power or speed; gets under their pads to knock them off balance or under the outside shoulder to turn the corner. Inside/outside spin move is effective in pass rush and to get off blocks outside.

Run defense: Plays low and in an athletic position to break down in space and stand his ground against pulling linemen or blocking fullbacks. Not great change-of-direction skills and must improve his flexibility and quick-twitch movement to switch to linebacker. Needs to use violent hands more consistently to defeat running back cut blocks and disengage from tackles. Aware of his containment responsibilities on the edge, maintains outside leverage to force play to the linebackers.

Explosion: Gets out of his stance and upfield quickly in passing situations. Has some pop getting into his man's chest when playing the run, but isn't big enough to knock him back. (Note - in moving to OLB, this will be much less of an issue than when fighting a tackle)

Strength: Strong, well-built upper body with the ability to bull rush and also the hands to shed on the outside using leverage against taller tackles. Also strong in the lower half but still lacks bulk; can be handled easily in space by linemen and blown off the line by tackle-tight end combos.

Tackling: Explosive tackler who brings it hard every play. Good burst to the ball and has length and strength to wrap up ballcarriers and quarterbacks in the backfield. Will miss tackles in space with average change of direction ability. Active inside and hustles downfield to either sideline to make plays. Not an efficient running motion; arms far away from his side as he goes to the ball.

Intangibles: Team captain. High effort and character player who is a leader in the locker room and the community. Named to the AFCA Good Works team and nominated for the Lowes Senior CLASS Award and the Wooden Cup, awarded to a college and professional athlete making the greatest positive influence on the lives of others.

If you're like me, one of the things that you want to know is how a player does against better competition. This, also from cbssportsline.com, helped to clear that up: ...collected seven stops, six solo, two TFLs, and forced and recovered a fumble on the same play at No. 23 Michigan. The next weekend vs. No. 9 Ohio State, recorded one sack (21 yards), forced a fumble and netted five tackles. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A good YouTube can be worth a couple of thousand at least, so please enjoy these:

UltimateHoosier1 Video 1
UltimateHoosier1 Video 2

One of the issues that Denver struggled with in 2009 was that the sacks by Elvis Dumervil, as exciting as they were, tended to come in bunches, with droughts in between and without a solid #2 sack man. Kirlew's nickname in college was 'The Sackmaster'. It will be interesting to see if the player who was rated as a 5th round pick can step in and, over the next couple of years, give the Broncos an alternative pash rusher off the edge. While expecting too much from him right away may not be wise, since he's learning a new position, Kirlew has already shown the ability to learn to set an edge. He's played LB in high school and played at both DE and DT in college, so he's experienced in several aspects of the defense and seems knowledgeable about defenses and football theory in general. He's as much a consistent presence in the film room as he is on the field, which is a remarkable achievement for a player who carried and completed a double major and graduated with a 3.25 GPA (on a 4 point scale).

Many fans have had reasonable worries with regard to the linebacking corps on the Broncos. Robert Ayers will be taking on a more full time role on the LOLB (he spent equal time on the ROLB in 2009), Elvis Dumervil will move around depending on where the weaknesses are on the opposing offensive line, but will most often line up at ROLB. Mario Haggan has moved to ILB, sharing that area with DJ Williams. Baraka Atkins has shown early signs of quality play, but the pads haven't come on yet. While players like Nick Greisen and Akin Ayodele are there for depth (and probably at ILB), a final plan on the LB corps hasn't shown itself yet, as is common with training camp looming.

But the value that was available in trading a 5th round pick in 2011 for two 7th round slots in 2010 was too tempting to pass up, especially since both players that the Broncos took were rated as 5th round picks or above. That was where you most often saw Kirlew ranked by various sites. Syd'Quan Thompson looks good in his own right, so this could end up being an excellent trade. Thompson was another player who has multiple skills (STs as well as CB) and who was rated up around the 5th round before the vagarious quirks of the draft dropped him to the 7th round.

Kirlew is, by any reasonable standard, a very special person, as well as a player. He's unusually bright and extremely hard working. He recognizes that there is life beyond football, but brings 110% to the field every time he walks on it. He's shown leadership qualities at a young age and is already giving back to the community. All in all, everything that we can see at this point shows him to be exactly what the McXanders team is looking for. Now it's time for him to show it on the field in training camp and then in the fast-paced world of the NFL.

Go Broncos!

Originally posted at MHR

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