Mel Kiper Jr. called New York Jets rookie Jamien Sherwood “the best tackler you will see in a long time come out of the collegiate ranks.”
The former Auburn Tigers thumper was a safety in college before the Jets scouting team identified him as a possible WILL linebacker that could make the positional leap.
He had 140 total tackles in three seasons at Auburn and averaged 6.8 tackles per game his junior year with one sack and three passes defended.
Kiper Jr. wasn’t the only one swooning over the big-hitter’s ability. According to Auburn beat reporter Tom Green, Sherwood’s defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said this: “Jamien may be one of the best tacklers I’ve ever seen in the secondary. He’s that talented with his balance and body control.”
Sherwood Turning the RIGHT Heads
Top Jets staff members have been quick to notice Sherwood on the practice field this spring.
That includes general manager Joe Douglas, who was asked which rookies stood out to him most in person on the Greenlight Podcast with Chris Long. Without hesitation, Douglas singled out the Auburn product and fellow hybrid linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen.
The gushing GM told Long he was “amazed by their wing-span, their legs [and] just how quickly they played to the ball.”
With the NFL transitioning to a speed-reliant “space game” by Douglas’ estimation, he noted that the linebacker position has evolved from the “downhill hammer” to a more athletic breed of tackler.
If you ask me, Sherwood seems to be both.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was the next key member of the Jets brain trust to highlight the linebacker, saying: “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.”
Ulbrich wasn’t only impressed by Sherwood’s football IQ, but his leadership too in “his ability to command the defense, run the huddle, make the adjustments [and] make the checks [and] calls.”
The coordinator described Nasirildeen and Sherwood both as “long, fast and instinctual.”
And then there was head coach Robert Saleh, who could barely contain his excitement over the phone on draft night: “Sherwood! What’s up, man?!” yelled Saleh in the behind-the-scenes look during episode four of Flight 2021.
He went on to tell the rookie that he doesn’t realize how good he’s going to be and that it will be fun to watch him “grow in this defense.”
Saleh System Could Be Matchmade in Heaven
Speaking of that defensive scheme, it’ll be Saleh’s 4-3 system that Sherwood thrives in.
Kyle Breitkreutz has a fantastic description of each role of Saleh’s system in an article on The 49ers Hub that I reference a bunch.
The WILL linebacker’s responsibilities sound like they’ve been hand-written for Sherwood: “The weak-side linebacker is going to be involved in a lot of action, typically he is helping with the C gap and the weak-side linebacker (or the WILL) needs to be one of the best tacklers on the field.”
Best tacklers on the field? “Best tackler out of the collegiate ranks in a long time.” There seems to be some correlation here.
The only player standing in Sherwood’s way of a Week 1 starting role is the oft-injured Blake Cashman, a good player when healthy, but notably not a Douglas-Saleh draft pick.
Nasirildeen could also compete for the job, but the Florida State product is not as pro-ready as Sherwood, who seems to comprehend NFL schemes at a faster rate.
‘Four-Core’ Special Teams Player
The Jets scouting personnel referred to Sherwood as a “four-core teams guy” during Flight 2021. This generally means that the player was active in all four facets of the special teams game.
That includes kickoffs, punts, field goal attempts and extra-point attempts.
Jets national scout Dom Green called him Auburn’s “best special teams player” of the past three seasons. He also was excited about Sherwood’s “length, athleticism, ability to transition and [his] toughness.”
With rookies like Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jason Pinnock, and both Michael Carter and Michael Carter II gaining a ton of the attention, a quality high-caliber player like Sherwood has sort of slipped through the cracks.
Out of all the rookies drafted by the Jets in 2021, few are as battled-tested and versatile as the former Tiger. Expect him to have an immediate impact in year one.