In his third year in the NFL and third with the Jets, Jamien Sherwood's window of opportunity is wide open.
The college safety at Auburn, who was immediately told to prepare to play linebacker when the Jets selected him in the fifth round (No. 146 overall) in the 2021 NFL Draft, could be poised and ready to join veterans C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams in the Green & White's starting, three-man LB corps.
"I'm way more comfortable playing in this defense," Sherwood said. "I have great coaches and great people around me. So I can not only get better, but I can learn so much more, especially playing behind C.J., a guy who's been in the league for 10 years. Having him next to me has been a tremendous help to my transition."
Sherwood came to the Jets at a solid 212 pounds, a good number for a safety, but not quite hefty enough to bring his hard-hitting nature to a position that is physically and mentally challenging. This offseason, Sherwood said that one of his goals was to bulk up.
"I got up to 230 in the offseason and was up to 237," he said. "Right now, I'm in football shape. In the offseason, I wanted to bulk up and get my strength right. When I do get to the season, I want to make sure I'm in the right spot."
See photos of Quincy Williams, C.J. Mosley, Hamsah Nasirildeen and the 2023 Jets linebackers.
Sherwood was limited to five games in his rookie season out of Auburn after he sustained a torn Achilles tendon in Week 7 of the 2021 season. He returned in 2022, playing in all 17 games and logging a modest 25 snaps at linebacker.
"My big takeaway from last year is that I can do it," he said. "As a rookie at 212, I didn't know anything. I was undersized, didn't know any techniques or the scheme for a linebacker. In Year 2, I had downtime to sit back and watch and soak up knowledge. All I can say is that when preparation meets opportunity, when the lights aren't on, I'm sitting back and studying. I got my opportunity and I just showed."
While his playing time on defense may have been limited, Sherwood took full advantage of an opportunity to flash on special teams last season. He took 309 ST snaps (67%).
"When you're [taken] in the later rounds of the draft and you're a backup, special teams are where you make your money," Sherwood said. "If you don't take it as serious as playing defense, you'll never get to play defense, because the starters are playing all season. If I want to get in a game, I've got to take specials seriously. I feel good getting those tackles, it lights up everyone's day."
With Mosley and Williams set as starters, there is a vacancy at the third linebacker spot as Kwon Alexander, who had 69 tackles in 17 games last season, remains a free agent. There's always competition, and Sherwood is surely in the mix.
"I want to prove I can do it," he said. "When I got here, they believed in me and I showed I could do the job. But there wasn't execution every time. Now, I'm executing every chance I get, no matter where it is -- Mike, outside, inside. I just want to show that I'm the man for the job no matter what it is. I want to show my teammates that I'm here for them and let's get this thing done."
Asked where he would place himself among linebackers in the league, Sherwood said: "I'm at the bottom. I just say a wolf climbing the mountain is always hungrier than the wolf at the top of the mountain. So when I get my shot this year it will all come to light."