Generally speaking, when you hear that a player is known for his tackling ability in college, you don’t necessarily expect them to be an expert strategist.
According to the rookie linebacker, his greatest unknown skill is his wherewithal as a chess player. The former Auburn Tiger even added that he’s “pretty good at it,” with a hint of modesty that makes you wonder if he’s downplaying the talent.
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Never Judge a Book by Its Cover
What was that classic lesson my mother taught me as a child? Ah yes, I shouldn’t judge Sherwood based on his tackling prowess, and apparently, neither should any of us.
Chess is a game of strategy and intellect. It’s not the hardest in the world to learn, but it is extremely challenging to master.
Although the Jets rookie never called himself a chess master, this trait actually explains a lot and syncs with what we heard about Sherwood after minicamp. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich praised the linebacker during a press conference on June 17, 2021.
He said: “I’ve been around a lot of rookies as a player and coach and he’s unique in the way that he has absolutely like, picked up the finite details of this defense already. His ability to command the defense, run the huddle, make the adjustments, make the checks, the calls, the whole thing, [it’s] very exciting.”
NFL Draft Analyst Connor Rogers also described Sherwood as “more instinctual than athlete” when comparing him to fellow hybrid linebacker prospect Hamsah Nasirildeen on an episode of the Badlands podcast.
From the sound of it, the Auburn star is playing chess while many other rookies are still playing checkers — pun 100% intended.
This type of football IQ can pay dividends when adjusting to a new position and a higher level of gameplay. Remember, Sherwood played safety with the Tigers.
It also shows that the 21-year old defender has a bit of maturity for his age, which is never bad when introducing young men with money and status.
There was one major red flag with Sherwood from this Meet the Fleet, the linebacker doesn’t like chunky or creamy peanut butter. Excuse me, what?
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Lots of Competition at Weakside Linebacker
We’ve discussed it in the past but this weakside (WILL) linebacker role could be a dogfight in training camp.
Even though Sherwood fits the job to perfection on paper, Blake Cashman is more likely to start if he stays healthy. Those aren’t the only two that might work best as a WILL linebacker in Robert Saleh’s scheme, however, the long list includes undrafted free agents Camilo Eifler and Brendon White, Del’Shawn Phillips and the aforementioned Nasirildeen.
I will note that Nasirildeen, White and possibly even Phillips seem versatile enough to factor in at strongside (SAM) linebacker too, which will presumably be occupied by veteran Jarrad Davis in Week 1.
Some intriguing NFL comparisons for Sherwood prior to the positional change were Kam Chancellor and Jamal Adams, two explosive safeties that excelled in the box. Many Jets fans wondered what ex-playmaker Adams might look like playing linebacker, so the former Tigers thumper should put that theory to the test.
Based on his draft status, football intelligence and inexperience around him, I fully expect Sherwood to make the regular-season roster. The real question is whether or not he’ll start.