In 2020, Linebacker was one of the weakest position groups for the New York Jets. Their big free agent signing from 2019, C.J. Mosley, opted out due to Covid, leaving a huge void in the middle of the defense. With basically no depth behind him, the Jets struggled to get value at the position, and it became a major need going into the offseason. Here is the New York Jets Position Preview Series #7: Linebackers.
2020 Linebacker Group
The New York Jets 2020 starting Linebacker corps consisted of Jordan Jenkins, Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman, and Tarell Basham. Jordan Jenkins, after appearing in only eight games, logged a total of 32 tackles and two sacks. Blake Cashman only played in four games, logging six tackles and one fumble recovery. Tarell Basham played in all 16 games, starting in nine, and logged 36 tackles. The clear outlier in the group was Nevill Hewitt, who surprisingly logged 134 tackles in 16 games, as well as two sacks and one forced fumble. A breakout year for Hewitt, he made the most of his opportunity with Mosley out for the season.
Avery Williamson also started the season on the depth chart, and played seven games for them, but he was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 2022 7th-round pick in exchange for a 2022 5th-round pick. Through those seven games, Williamson totaled 50 tackles, but contract disputes lead to the team wanting to move him. Behind him, as well as the other guys aforementioned, the Jets rostered Frankie Luvu and Harvey Langi, who both played rotational roles on the defense.
Lots of Offseason Moves
After the 2020 season, the Jets made countless free agent signings and draft picks in an attempt to bolster the unit. In free agency, they signed Jarrad Davis, a player whom has had his short career wasted so far in Detroit. He should start this season as the strong side linebacker next to C.J. Mosley.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets selected Florida State Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen and Auburn Safety Jamien Sherwood, both of whom project as hybrid linebackers in Robert Saleh’s defense. As neither of them have never played a down in the NFL, there is no real way to project how their seasons will go, but there is reason to be optimistic. Speaking of Sherwood and Nasirildeen, Robert Saleh said, “What you can see out of those guys is the ability to read, diagnose, run, hit, play coverage, understand route concepts that are in front of them.”
The Projected 2021 Depth Chart
For the upcoming 2021 season, the Jets projected starting Linebacker unit should look to consist of C.J. Mosley, Jarrad Davis, and Blake Cashman. Behind those three should be Noah Dawkins, Nasirildeen, and Jamien Sherwood. On the depth chart on the New York Jets website, they also have listed Camilo Eifler, Brendon White and Del’Shawn Philips. This group should be somewhat equal to the unit in 2020, but there should be some more optimism among the fanbase, as there are some promising rookies this season.
With strong performances out of Sherwood and Nasirildeen, this unit should hold up well, especially behind the incredible defensive line they have put together. If they can not be terrible, they should boost the defense’s overall potential to a place the defense last year could never come close to.
Jets fans should come into this 2021 season with cautious optimism. This group can be great, but with a lot of young players, there are sure to be many a mistake. In a 4-3 defense, utilizing three linebackers, they shouldn’t have as big an impact on the game as the defensive line. Because of this, their mistakes shouldn’t have as much a negative impact on the game.