Hard-Hitting UDFA Faces Opportunity in Shallow Jets Linebacker Core

Camilo Eifler

Getty New York Jets undrafted linebacker Camilo Eifler (#5) lines up a tackle with Illinois on December 12, 2020.

The New York Jets linebacker core should be one of the most intriguing positional groups to watch during the preseason.

After C.J. Mosley, who is returning from a two-year hiatus and is no guarantee to stay healthy, you have a pool of raw talent and potential.

  • Jarrad Davis; former first-round pick that flamed out in Detroit.
  • Blake Cashman; the oft-injured 2019 fifth-round pick out of Minnesota.
  • Jamien Sherwood; a thumper box safety out of Auburn that could become a prototypical WILL linebacker due to his tackling ability.
  • Hamsah Nasirildeen; another college safety that was known for his rare physical attributes at Florida State, coming off a torn ACL but supposedly 100%.
  • Noah Dawkins; an athletic converted defensive end that has logged over 98% of his NFL snaps on special teams.
  • Del’Shawn Phillips; former undrafted prospect with Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta, likely outside linebacker or special teamer.
  • Brendon White; 2021 undrafted tweener prospect out of Rutgers that profiled as a box safety in college.

If there are two coaches that can get the most out of this group, it’s Ulbrich and Robert Saleh. The Jets defensive coordinator nicknamed “Brick” is a former NFL linebacker himself, as well as a special teams and linebackers coach throughout his career before earning a job calling plays.

Coach Saleh didn’t play pro-ball but he has a pedigree for developing defensive players, especially linebackers and pass-rushers. Outside of Mosley, Cashman, and Dawkins who were on this roster before the change in coaching staffs, these players were all hand-picked because they fit the style and body type that these two coaches are looking for.

That includes undrafted free agent out of Illinois, Camilo “Milo” Eifler.

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‘Explosive’ Tackler Found His Game at Illinois

After finding it hard to gain playing time at Washington, Eifler transferred to Illinois ahead of his junior season. He promptly put up 63 total tackles (10 of which were for a loss) and two sacks in 2019.

As a senior, he only played six games during the shortened 2020 season but had managed a very similar production rate in terms of average tackles per game and sacks. He finished with 27 combined tackles and one sack.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein scouted Eifler as an “outside linebacker prospect with [a] long, athletic frame and plus toughness in his overall field demeanor.”

The Illinois product’s major strengths were his athleticism and “explosiveness” as a former track star and Alijah Vera-Tucker teammate at Bishop O’Dowd High School. On his pro day, Eifler ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash with a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-6 broad jump, which all ranks above-average for his position.

Zierlein did note that he has a good deal to learn both instinctually and in coverage, but described him as “athletic and agile in pursuit of the football.”

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Special Teams Comparison Raises Eyebrows

Eifler’s greatest talents may lie in the special teams game, as Matt Rejc of SB Nation’s Illinois football fan page, The Champaign Room, points out.

“Eifler has a knack for always being around the ball,” Rejc wrote before the draft, “his speed, length, and athleticism should serve him well as a special teams player for any number of professional teams.”

He even went one step further and compared the linebacker’s upside to former Illinois alumnus turned special teams ace, Justin Hardee, who ironically signed with the Jets this spring.

Zierlein agreed that Eifler displayed “quality kick coverage talent while at Washington.”

Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer also admitted that he lost the majority of his core this offseason, calling Hardee a “crucial” addition on the ST side of the football. Just like at linebacker, there are Jets special teams roles that are up for grabs in training camp.

Eifler could kill two birds with one stone if he’s able to nab a roster spot.

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Scheme Fit in Saleh-Ulbrich 4-3

At Illinois, Eifler played both WILL and SAM linebacker but I doubt he has the size to play MIKE.

**Side note, I’ve profiled most of Gang Green’s linebackers this offseason and most of these roster bubble prospects are all outside linebackers. If you’re wondering who would backup Mosley in the event of an injury, remember that Davis and Cashman are both former middle linebackers. In fact, I still believe Cashman fits more as a backup MIKE long-term, so long as a youngster can step up at WILL.

Based on his struggles in coverage, however, I see Eifler as a backup WILL that could excel on special teams. The SAM tends to match up with tight ends and fill gaps inside while the weak side (WILL) linebacker role usually calls for the most athletic tacklers on the team.

Of course, the Jets may also drop a linebacker half the time and use a third corner or safety in different nickel formations. Versatile players make this defense special, and Eifler is just another asset for Saleh and Ulbrich to mold into an NFL pro.

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