Latest Jets’ Injury Shakes up Entire Linebacker Core

Jamien Sherwood & Hamsah Nasirildeen

Getty New York Jets rookie linebackers Jamien Sherwood (#44) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (#45) combine for a tackle on August 21, 2021.

Well New York Jets fans, we have yet another injury that could influence the franchise significantly on the defensive side.

Middle linebacker Jarrad Davis picked up an ankle injury during the August 21 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. The free-agent acquisition was quickly developing into a leader within this young linebacker core alongside C.J. Mosley, but now it appears he may be sidelined until the Week 6 bye.

Head coach Robert Saleh’s exact words were, “it’s going to take him into the season, but we expect to have him back sometime around the bye week.” Saleh would not comment on whether or not Davis was an option for the injured reserve, noting that he and general manager Joe Douglas would “decide that later.”

It’s another big blow for this Gang Green defense that can’t seem to catch a break, and like the Carl Lawson injury, it will have ripple effects that impact this roster.

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Immediate Replacement Could Spark Role Change

Now you may be wondering — wait, middle linebacker? Did he misspeak?

I did not. Many fans overlooked a simple yet notable switch that Coach Saleh, Jeff Ulbrich and this Jets linebacker room decided on before the initial preseason game. Davis and Mosley swapped roles, being that the former Baltimore Ravens playmaker is excellent in pass coverage.

Davis became the MIKE (middle LB), a more natural fit for him, Mosley became the SAM (strongside LB).

Having said that, the immediate question that comes to mind with the former Detroit Lions talent on the pine is, does Mosley revert to MIKE-backer? It certainly seems like a possibility based on some of the tweets from beat reporters. Here was ESPN’s Rich Cimini.

Saleh announced that rookie Jamien Sherwood would be the first man up to replace Davis, and the Auburn product had been learning the MIKE role behind the veteran, so it’s a fair question. At the same time, would you really ask a first-year player that is converting from safety in college to play at the heart of this defense when you have an experienced leader like Mosley on the roster?

Unlike Davis, Sherwood can cover and play outside linebacker, so a reversal of Mosley’s training camp swap might be in order to keep this young core as balanced as possible. Keep in mind, you have another converted rookie safety at weakside (WILL) linebacker in Hamsah Nasirildeen.

Mosley was born for this 4-3 MIKE-backer role, let him play it.

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Rookie Pairing Continues to Impress

There is a silver lining here Jets fans, and it’s that Sherwood and Nasirildeen have developed much faster than expected. These two have been praised since day one of OTAs, by coaches like Saleh and Ulbrich as well as players like Mosley and Davis.

The Jets HC continued to commend this group on August 23. He said: “We really like our linebacker group, we’ve got a combination of youth and experience. Sherwood’s been doing a really nice job so we’re expecting him to slide in and pick up where Jarrad left off.”

Later on, he spoke more on the rookie out of Auburn, saying; “Sherwood is exactly what we thought [he would be]… [he] has a tremendous mindset to him, extremely smart, he’s got great command of the playbook already, he’s got [the] respect of his peers, he’s an unbelievable communicator and he doesn’t look like Fred [Warner] but he’s sitting right there around 220-225 [pounds], he’s got tremendous length and tremendous instincts, [and] he’s got a great feel for the game so again for him, there [are] going to be some hiccups along the way but we feel that with reps, he’s only going to get better.”

Earlier in the dialogue, Saleh carefully explained how Sherwood reminds him of Warner, his star linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers. The head coach stated: “When we drafted — now, I want to make sure I’m saying this the right way I’m not comparing him to Fred Warner he’s got a long way to go [to become] Fred Warner — but Fred Warner played nickel in college and was maybe 220-225 his rookie year. We threw him in there at MIKE linebacker and started him day one, and he took off.”

Based on these quotes, I may have spoken too soon. We’ve heard a lot about Sherwood’s intelligence and his grasp of the playbook, a clear determining factor in his switch to MIKE, so is it possible Saleh will attempt to recreate his success with Warner and throw the rookie into the integral role?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. As for the rest of this room, Davis’ injury opens the door for someone like Camilo Eifler, Edmond Robinson or Blake Cashman to secure a roster spot.

Another interesting name to keep an eye on, Noah Dawkins. The 24-year old outside linebacker got some burn with the first-team defense in Green Bay and Saleh had some positive comments about him during the post-game press conference.

“I think Dawk’s done a really nice job,” the head coach began, “he’s had a 180 since OTAs, he’s been extremely detailed, he’s getting extra meeting time, he’s more consistent with his responsibility and when he’s on it, and his eyes are right and his feet are in the ground, the kid can flat-out fly.”

These reps will be key for the development of rookies and younger players like Nasirildeen, Sherwood, Eifler and Dawkins, who have been impressive during the preseason.

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Still All Gas?

After the rash of injuries that has hit New York in training camp, the media asked Coach Saleh if it might influence his decision to play starters during the third preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

He answered very boldly: “You look at the two injuries that [we] had, obviously one was in practice. Every time you take a snap in this game, you’re subject to injury. If anything, you’re probably safer in a game than you are in practice in my opinion because in practice you’re not expecting people to fall on the ground and that’s where a lot of things can go wrong. Jarrad’s injury was a little bit of a freak injury, with someone rolling up on his ankle, but I don’t think you can be gun-shy… as a player, if you play not to get hurt, that’s probably when you do get hurt. To answer your question though, no Connor [Hughes], I’m not gun-shy at all.”

In terms of how he feels about the injuries, Saleh made it clear that he “feels sick for the players,” not himself. “I don’t think it’s hard on me, I think it’s much harder on them. We’ll figure it out, someone will step up and we’ll keep on moving.”

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