Both youngsters would make the transition to linebacker at the NFL level and hopefully excel in a modernized league that relies on speed and agility. Nasirildeen was dubbed as the athletic freak while Sherwood was more cerebral, making him a candidate to replace C.J. Mosley someday.
Although neither of the prospects succeeded in year one, you could see more signs of potential with Sherwood than with Nasirildeen — before the former’s unfortunate torn Achilles injury. The latter dealt with injury as well and was severely out-muscled at weakside linebacker.
Quite frankly, Nasirildeen looked undersized and lost as a rookie and one veteran Jets analyst is ready to pull the plug on the entire experiment.
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Injury Recovery Could ‘Knock off the Kid’
The prediction came during a 53-man roster projection on July 5 via Jets X-Factor. Co-founder and member of the NYJ beat Robby Sabo detailed a “tricky” linebacker room ahead of training camp. He wrote:
Linebacker, although still weak, is incredibly tricky. Jamien Sherwood is returning from injury (achilles), which muddies the waters. C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams are the only two locks, but a No. 3 and perhaps even a No. 2 in the nickel is desperately needed.
Watch out for little-known Marcell Harris to take the WILL (or, at the very least, the No. 2 in the nickel). If Sherwood is healthy enough to make the initial roster, he’ll be in there, as the staff loves his leadership (and No. 2 MIKE role). If he’s not healthy enough, Hamsah Nasirildeen is safe.
With only five linebackers making the roster in this scenario, that’s where the “but” moment came in. Sabo concluded that Nasirildeen’s potential release could hinge on Sherwood’s health, doubting his chances over special teams ace Del’Shawn Phillips and the aforementioned Harris.
He explained: “The last spot will be a battle between Nasirildeen and Phillips. Right now, I have the upset of Phillips knocking off the kid.”
Sabo did include Nasirildeen as a practice squad candidate, assuming he clears waivers.
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Not out of the Realm of Possibility
General manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh have raved about Sherwood and Nasirildeen since day one, so it’s hard to see them releasing either after a lone season attempting this difficult transition. Having said that, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Sherwood isn’t going anywhere but you have to wonder whether the front office drafted both as a calculated risk — knowing one or the other may not succeed in switching positions.
Nasirildeen’s numbers were downright terrible at linebacker. He finished with a 27.5 defensive grade on Pro Football Focus, which was torpedoed by a 25.2 score against the run and a missed tackle percentage of 28.6.
He earned a tackle mark of 47.2 and was best in coverage — although not great — allowing one 21-yard reception on his only target, yielding a 118.8 passer rating against. Realistically, it’s hard to judge Nasirildeen’s ceiling being that he didn’t get much burn after the Jets determined he wasn’t ready early in the season.
The rookie played more on special teams and was solid in that regard. He earned a 77.5 for Brant Boyer’s unit providing an impact on kick and punt return, as well as the coverage units for both areas and the field goal blocking crew on defense.
That fifth and final roster spot at linebacker could easily come down to special teams. Phillips led the franchise in ST snaps and impact in 2021, so Sabo’s not wrong in giving him the edge, but Harris and Nasirildeen are no slouches either. This is certainly a three-way battle to watch in August, with the added x-factor of Sherwood’s health.