The New York Jets released their first “unofficial” depth chart on Monday, August 9, and although it’s nowhere near set in stone, there were still a few noticeable surprises at this point in training camp.
One involved the weakside (WILL) linebacker position, which did not list third-year professional Blake Cashman on the first-team as expected. Instead, rookie sixth-rounder Hamsah Nasirildeen was named alongside C.J. Mosley and Jarrad Davis.
Here were the initial Jets linebacker ranks.
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Jets Throw Rookie Curveball After Scrimmage
If you had told me there was going to be a rookie starting at WILL linebacker on August 9, I would have expected it to be Sherwood.
This is nothing against Nasirildeen, or ‘Ham,’ as a player but after only recently returning from a torn ACL, the expectation was that the Florida State product might take a bit longer to develop. The two have been attempting the exact same transition from box safety to outside linebacker and Sherwood seemed to have a more pro-ready skill set.
Apparently, that has not been the case in training camp as Ham has stolen the spotlight thus far.
“It’s got a nice ring to it,” Nasirildeen told team reporter Eric Allen when asked what it’s like to be referred to as a linebacker rather than a safety. He continued: “This is the opportunity of a lifetime, something I’ve dreamed about, so I never forget how much I wanted to do this when I was young. I just love being out here.”
Allen asked Ham about his positional change and the rookie replied that he’s been working on his “hand placement” and making “better [first] steps,” or reads. Being that he’s lining up closer to the ball now than before, the rookie commented that he needs to be “more intentional” with his actions.
“I feel like I’ve been doing alright,” Nasirildeen concluded, “I [have] high standards for myself so I always feel like I can do better but I feel like I’ve been doing alright.”
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Linebacking Core Focuses on Communication
Ham told Allen that the linebackers are always working on their “communication as a unit.” In this 4-3 Cover-3 scheme, chemistry and trust are crucial.
These LBs must know where each other are on the field at all times, and Mosley is the field general in that regard. “He’s laid back but when he gets on that field he’s communicating, he’s flying around, he’s helpful, he’s just everything you want out of a vet,” Nasirildeen said when asked about his leader.
Davis has been a great mentor too. “[They’re] just detail-oriented guys that are here to help, not too big for anybody or anything,” the rookie explained, calling the former Detroit Lions player a “vocal” and “physical guy” that “plays football the right way.”
On the flip side, the two veterans have had nothing but good things to say about both Nasirildeen and Sherwood.
Here was Davis in a recent press conference; “I spoke about them in OTAs a little bit and I’m going to back it up again man, those guys right there [are] going to have really long careers in the NFL, especially if they get to play in schemes like this. I mean their cover skills are bar-none on the team. They can play man, they can play zone, they have a very good feel of tracking the quarterback’s eyes [and] knowing where they need to be at on the field.”
Davis also called Joe Douglas and the scouting staff “intuitive” for their plan to draft hybrid safeties and have them transition to outside linebacker, something we’ve heard the general manager discuss in the past.
As for Mosley, the leader of the group noted that the Jets have a lot of “raw talent” in the room. The former Baltimore Raven didn’t deny his excitement, but told reporters that they’ll “let their play do the talking,” and it has so far.
Davis and Mosley have both had interceptions in training camp, and this whole group has done a fantastic job clogging gaps in the run game and disguising their zone looks in pass-D.
“We have a fast linebacker group, so I think it’s going to be exciting to see how training camp goes,” Mosley said in a media address on August July 27. At this point, the rookie out of Florida State is leading the pack.