Author: David Wyatt-Hupton
With Kwon Alexander signing a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, we have confirmation that there will be a new starting weakside linebacker roaming the field with the Jets’ base defence when the Buffalo Bills roll into town in week one.
Coach Saleh was asked about the competition for that vacant spot, and he confirmed that it’s all to play for: “We do have a really good competition going on for that third spot with Nas (Hamsah Nasirildeen) and Sherwood, along with Z (Zaire Barnes).”
Jamien Sherwood has had to be patient. After being selected out of Auburn in the 5th round of the 2021 draft, the converted safety made four starts as a rookie before a torn achilles at the Patriots game prematurely ended his season.
It was a devastating blow for a player who was just finding his footing in the league. Following that game, Saleh had some words of comfort for a player who knew he faced a long road to recovery
“He’s one of the guys who’s going to be a staple here,” Saleh said after that Patriots game. “He studies his butt off. As for his size, he is going to get bigger when he gets a full NFL offseason and meal plan. He has the ability to uncoil and tackle people, one of the best in the draft. He doesn’t give up many leaky yards. Let’s just say that and he’s only going to get better.”
Although he was a fixture of the special teams unit from the start of the year, Sherwood didn’t make his defensive bow in the 2022 season until week nine against Buffalo. With the defence rolling, well on their way to being the 4th best unit with points per game against resting at just 18.6, Sherwood had to be patient.
Now with a healthy season in the bag and a full NFL offseason under his belt, Sherwood is ready to take the next step, and opportunity has come knocking.
In an interview with team reporter Ethan Greenberg, Sherwood confirmed that after entering the league at 212 lbs, he bulked up to 237 lbs this off-season, and that added strength and power is evident when you see him on the practice field.
If the physical transformation is clear for all to see, the most underappreciated aspect of the transition from college safety to NFL linebacker is the mental adjustment. Sherwood credits the coaching staff and veterans like C.J. Mosley for providing the coaching needed from a scheme and technical point of view.
Although 2022 must have been frustrating with Sherwood only seeing 25 snaps on defence, you won’t hear a single complaint from him. He took the time to tap into players like Mosley and Alexander, absorbing all the information that comes with 16 years of NFL experience.
Now, he’s hungry to show what he can do; as he said to Greenberg: “A wolf that’s climbing the mountain is always hungrier than the wolf on top of the mountain”.
Although we’ve often seen Sherwood as the ideal middle linebacker candidate because of his communication and natural leadership, with C.J. Mosley in the building, Sherwood will likely have to start building his resume at the outside spot. In a role that requires versatility, his experience as a safety will come in useful when asked to drop into coverage.
According to PFF, Sherwood was targeted 59 times over three years at Auburn, and the Florida native allowed just 61% of passes to be completed, surrendering one touchdown but bringing down one interception to go with five pass breakups.
Thought to be one of the better run defenders at Auburn, it’s easy to see why the Jets decided to draft and mould him into a linebacker. When you combine an ability to cover with a nose for the football in the run game and outstanding tackling technique, you have yourself a player.
His progress hasn’t gone unnoticed among his peers either; earlier in camp C.J Mosley highlighted Sherwood's work ethic, something that Coach Saleh references nearly every time he talks about the third-year player:
“I’m excited for what [Sherwood] is going to bring this year. He’s one of the smartest players on our defence and on this team. He’s a hard worker, one of the hardest workers in the weight room and classroom. I feel like he’s got a great chance to really show what he’s about.”
The first pre-season game against Cleveland will represent his first chance to really make a statement. With Coach Saleh confirming that the starters will miss that game, he’ll likely start as the middle linebacker in place of Mosley.
Although the Jets do play with two linebackers in their sub-package, Kwon appeared in 558 defensive snaps last year, which represents 558 opportunities for one of the young linebackers to make a statement. Sherwood is determined it’ll be him.