Can Quincy Williams, and the New York Jets’ young linebackers have a successful year in 2022?
The New York Jets‘ linebacker position was widely expected to be addressed entering the 2022 offseason. However, free agency and the draft passed with the team only making about as minor of an attempt to upgrade the unit as possible.
Perhaps Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh viewed the need as less dire in comparison to other positions, which in turn led to the team choosing not to significantly add to it. Or, they have confidence that the young players in the unit will prove themselves.
Ideally, for the Jets’ defense to improve, they’ll need the latter to happen.
That youthful core with room to grow mainly consists of Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood, and Hamsah Nasirildeen; with undrafted free agent DQ Thomas potentially joining. Del’Shawn Phillips and Marcell Harris will likely compete on special teams.
When reviewing the Jets roster on paper at linebacker, most know what to expect from C.J. Mosley. He is a leader for the unit, a respected presence, and a winner. Pre-snap, Mosley will be the main communicator. He is incredibly smart and able to ensure his teammates know their alignment and assignment.
Mosley has plenty of size and physicality. He should accumulate a ton of tackles once again in 2022 after racking up 168 in 2021. Against the pass, he can be a reliable contributor for the linebacker group in coverage or as a blitzer. Even though he will play this season at 30 years old, Mosley should again be a consistent asset for the Jets in 2022.
The main question is, how much will the Jets get from Williams, Sherwood, and Nasirildeen?
How Williams, Sherwood, and Nasirildeen can collectively contribute
Aside from their younger age, one of the main reasons these three can make it work together is that their strengths complement one another.
Williams is the athlete in this group. He has great speed and can move well. He has the range to cover ground in an instant. If he can be more consistent with his tackling, Williams can be a physical player who makes his presence felt.
Sherwood has the mindset, frame, and physicality as a tackler to be a downhill, thumping run stopper for the Jets linebacker position. A pure run defender at linebacker is a crucial aspect the Jets need to have this year. His speed may not be blazing, but if Sherwood can consistently take proper pursuit angles, he has the size and tackling ability to help in run defense.
Nasirildeen’s upside in coverage is an excellent complementary strength. He offers great height (6-foot-3) and length (34 1/4″ arms) to start. This gives him an 82 3/4″ wingspan, putting him in the 99th percentile for the position. Nasirildeen was credited for his ability to play in man coverage on tight ends and in underneath zones throughout the draft process.
Considering their ages, there is a reason for optimism. Williams will turn 26 shortly before the season. As second-year players, Sherwood will be 22 and Nasirildeen will be 23. Williams has only played 34 games to this point. The hope has to be that they can all continue to develop with more experience.
All three players now have a year of experience in the defensive scheme which should lead to more confidence.
Until any noteworthy move occurs, this will be the group for the Jets at linebacker this season.
Finding ways to balance out the strengths and weaknesses of these players will be the key. If the Jets can allow Williams to play up to his speed and athletic ability in space, use Sherwood against the run, and maximize Nasirildeen in passing situations, they will give this unit a chance to surpass expectations in 2022.