Throughout the 2022 offseason, there has been speculation surrounding the linebacker position for the New York Jets. Outside of C.J. Mosley, there have been some concerns at the position the last few years. For the Jets’ defense and, in particular, the run defense to drastically improve this year, this position group will have to be better. Let’s take a look at what Mosley and the other six players at this position provide.
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Mosley is currently the only known commodity to this group. He is the lone player Jet fans know what they can expect. Mosley is an established veteran heading into his ninth NFL season. He will turn 30 years old in a little over two weeks. His leadership for the Jets team as a whole is highly-touted. Pre-snap he can communicate with the defense to get everyone appropriately aligned and knowing their assignment. He is an intelligent player. Mosley provides size and physicality. He will be a contributor against the run. He totaled 168 tackles last year. Anticipate another significant tackle amount from Mosley in 2022. Overall, he is still a good top linebacker to have.
Quincy Williams is a young fourth-year linebacker who will turn 26 shortly before the start of the season in late August. He has room to grow, thanks to his athletic ability. Last season, he showed flashes of his great potential. In 2022, it will be about consistency for Williams. He has incredible speed sideline-to-sideline and getting in the backfield. It allows him to cover a ton of ground fast. When his technique is sound, he can be a physical tackler. Moving forward, he will have to be more reliable with his technique. If so, Williams can have a role in this defense, playing in space against the run and in zone coverage.
Jamien Sherwood was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. He converted from safety to linebacker. His rookie year last season was going to be a learning experience. Sherwood will play this upcoming season at 22-years-old. The Jets love his intelligence. He is not the fastest or most athletic to play in coverage. However, Sherwood does have the physicality to be a good run stopper. If he can take better pursuit angles more frequently, he will give himself a chance to have an integral role on the second level of this defense in his second year.
The Jets selected Hamsah Nasirildeen shortly after Sherwood. They added him in the sixth round of the draft last year. At the time, it seemed like the pick could have been incredible value. Similar to Sherwood, he made a move from safety to linebacker. As a rookie, he took on a sizable special teams role and contributed. Nasirildeen will play this year at 23-years-old. He offers a ton of height and arm length. Primarily, he can have a role in this defense as a coverage linebacker. His ability to cover in the box could be tremendous for the Jets’ defense to add.
The Jets signed Del’Shawn Phillips in March of 2021. He played in all 17 games last season. His role defensively was minimal. He did finish the season with 374 special teams snaps. A year ago, Phillips ended up as one of the Jets’ best players on special teams. He is still a young player. He will turn 26 in October as he plays his fourth NFL season. Phillips should remain a core piece of the Jets’ special teams unit for Brant Boyer.
This offseason, the Jets signed Marcell Harris. He has three years of experience with Robert Saleh from 2018-20. Harris is another converted safety like Sherwood and Nasirildeen. Last year was also his first year playing the position. Harris has played in 52 games in four NFL seasons and had at least 34 tackles each year. He will turn 28 next week. Each of the last two years, Harris has played at least 250 snaps on special teams. As a whole, it is fair to expect Harris to just have a role on special teams if he makes the roster.
It seemed like there was a chance the Jets could come away with a linebacker in the 2022 draft. Ultimately, they did not spend a selection on the position. Shortly after the draft, the Jets signed DQ Thomas as an undrafted free agent. They gave him a hefty amount of guaranteed money ($130,000) for a free agent. He gained a lot of experience in college (60 games) and produced. Thomas provides good athletic ability. He offers the required speed, explosiveness, and agility. Thomas can help in coverage and pressuring the quarterback in the passing game. His size and tackling were likely the reasons he went undrafted. If Thomas can show his enticing traits early on, he may have a chance to be on the roster.
All in all, while there is some valid reason for concern with this group, there is also upside as a result of the youth. Mosley will bring credibility and lead this group. Williams, Sherwood, and Nasirildeen are all essentially guaranteed roster spots. Considering their complementary skillsets, it would be nice to see them flourish. Williams has the speed and athleticism, Sherwood the physicality against the run, Nasirildeen the measurables and pass coverage skills. The fifth linebacker could be either Phillips, Harris, or Thomas. Phillips and Harris may be in competition on special teams. Thomas does have upside but could start on the practice squad.