Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas chose not to bring in a big-name linebacker to pair with C.J. Mosley in 2021. Instead, the New York Jets employed a long list of upside fliers and developmental candidates.
Aside from waiver claim Quincy Williams, most did not live up to their potential.
Rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen both missed large gaps with injuries and neither looked prepared after converting from safety in college. Free-agent pickup Jarrad Davis was a total bust. And depth players like Blake Cashman, Del’Shawn Phillips, and Noah Dawkins among others were either sub-par or nonexistent.
Gang Green needs to add at least one starting-caliber linebacker in 2022 that can push Williams for the LB2 role — plus some better depth to replace the Cashmans of the roster. One potential option in free agency is a reunion with a 2020 breakout that won over some fans.
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Jets Wire: Neville Hewitt Return Won’t Happen
Neville Hewitt enjoyed a surprising 134-tackle campaign with the Jets in 2020 and it earned him a one-year contract in Houston. Now the thumper is a free agent again but NFL analyst Tyler Calvaruso of Jets Wire thinks NYJ will steer clear of the veteran. He explained:
Hewitt’s production tailed off in his first season with the Texans after a monster 2020 campaign with the Jets. The 28-year-old registered 60 tackles and made just five starts for Houston despite signing on to be a prominent part of the defense. New York let Hewitt walk last offseason for a reason. Douglas and company won’t be interested in him come March.
As fun as Hewitt’s emergence was under Gregg Williams, I have to agree with Calvaruso on this one. For starters, the 3-4 backer doesn’t fit Saleh’s scheme — which is one of the reasons they let him go in the first place.
The Jets’ current linebacking group needs help in coverage more than anything. Mosley and Williams can tackle, which was Hewitt’s best attribute, but they both struggled in coverage in 2021.
I just listed the numbers the other day when discussing potential draft target Chad Muma, but the coverage grades from Pro Football Focus this year will tell you all you need to know. Here they are again in case you missed them.
|Jets Linebackers||Coverage Marks (out of 100)|
Hewitt would be better off signing with a 3-4 defense that needs MLB depth in 2022. The Jets will look elsewhere for linebacker help.
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2 More LBs to ‘Avoid’
The former Pro Bowler would match the system but the question is whether or not he has any gas left in the tank.
Calvaruso wrote: “Alexander spent one and a half seasons in San Francisco with Robert Saleh, but that likely won’t be enough for the Jets to show interest in him once free agency begins. Alexander totaled just 39 tackles in 12 games with the Saints in 2021 and hasn’t been the same player since he made the Pro Bowl in 2017 — mostly due to injuries.”
Depending on the asking price, Alexander could make sense because of his coverage ability. The savvy vet was always skilled in this regard and even if you sign him to be more of a mentor than a starter, I wouldn’t be against looking into this “Saleh reunion.”
Alexander only made $1.1275 million in 2021.
The other was Christian Kirksey, another journeyman who has moved around the NFL throughout his career.
This time, Calvaruso stated: “Kirksey has bounced around since spending the first six years of his career with the Browns, suiting up for the Packers in 2020 and the Texans in 2021. He racked up 93 tackles — his highest total since 2017 — last season, but finished the year with a Pro Football Focus grade of 50.3. He wasn’t good in coverage.”
As you would imagine, I agree with Calvaruso this time being that Kirksey’s coverage numbers weren’t any good last season. Based on age and scheme, this is an easy pass.