NFL Notes: Andre Branch earning rave reviews from Jaguars' coaches

DL coach Todd Wash: 'He’s busting his hump harder than anybody on our squad'

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (90) sacks Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum (7) during the first quarter an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch (90) sacks Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum (7) during the first quarter an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

"What's gotten into Andre Branch?"

A Jacksonville Jaguars blogger posed that question midway through last season, as the former Clemson standout and unheralded two-star recruit hit his stride after a quiet first season and a half in the NFL.

According to Jags coach Gus Bradley, Branch has picked up right where he left off with a stellar performance during Organized Team Activities.

In a recent interview with the Florida Times-Union, Bradley cited Branch as one of the three players he's been most impressed with during OTAs, along with quarterback Chad Henne and receiver Cecil Shorts.

“You see Andre really focused and really capturing every opportunity,” Bradley said. “Those three really stand out as far as what we’re talking about as far as limiting distractions and controlling what you can control.”

“He’s busting his hump harder than anybody on our squad,” agreed Jaguars defensive line coach Todd Wash. “We’re real pleased with the maturity that he’s gone through over the last year. We think he’s going to be an excellent pass rusher for us this season.”

Branch attributes part of his development to his off-season mixed martial arts training in Los Angeles.

“It goes perfect with my position,” Branch told the Times-Union. “It teaches you leverage, hand speed, how to use your body so it’s perfect for me.

"When I wake up in the morning, I want to get better from the day before. I’m seeing progress. No doubt about it. I’m going to always compete and never become complacent, because then you’ll get passed up.”

Whatever his secret, Branch hit the ground running when OTAs began.

“He was able to run all day long last year and he’s doing the same thing already,” Wash said. “He’s stronger, as well as faster with his get-off. The biggest thing, though, is that he’s playing extremely hard.”

Opportunity For McClain: An injury that has sidelined former Clemson offensive tackle Chris Hairston has meant opportunity for another former Tiger, Antoine McClain, on the Buffalo Bills' offensive front.

McClain stepped on Tuesday after an undisclosed injured forced Hairston out of an OTA training session.

Hairston is trying to come back this season after missing last year with leg and foot injuries.

Tigers Aplenty In Planned Joint Workout: A pair of joint practices by the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers will temporarily reunite Martavis Bryant with former Clemson teammates Sammy Watkins, Darius Robinson, Jonathan Meeks, Antoine McClain and Chris Hairston, as well as C.J. Spiller.

The Steelers and Bills will hold their joint session at Latrobe, Pennsylvania in August.

“We are looking for certain things, and things that Coach Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers bring to the table that would help us,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone. “I think there are things we can do that help them prepare for the season.”

Colts Waive Thomas Austin: The Indianapolis Colts waived former Clemson offensive lineman Thomas Austin this week. Austin was working at center for the Colts.

He played in one game after being signed by the Colts last season. Previously he played in four games, including one star, for the Carolina Panthers.

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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