After more than 15 seasons in which the Jets employed a 3-4 defense, Head Coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have engineered a switch to an evolving 4-3 defense that demands speed and versatility from the linebackers.
Jarrad Davis (6-1, 245) was signed as a free agent after Detroit declined his fifth-year option. He was the No. 21 overall pick in the 2017 draft and in four seasons with the Lions he amassed more than 300 tackles, had 10.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. Speed and versatility make Davis, 26, an appealing cog in the revamped defense.
"I really enjoy this scheme, I like it a lot," Davis said. "It allows us to really show who we are as athletes, all 11 players on the field at the same time. It really lets us just be who we are as individuals."
Though C.J. Mosley, 29, is hardly "new" in the sense that he's been in the league since 2014, yet for most Jets fans they've hardly known the guy since he played in only two games in 2019 after signing a free-agent deal, and opted-out of the 2020 season over concerns about the coronavirus. During OTAs in June, Mosley said: "I feel great. We'll just let the play do the talking."
Davis said of Mosley: "I honestly love having someone of that caliber next to me. I know everybody else out there does too, just being able to have someone who is locked in and focused on his job as he is just helps raise the bar."
Players to Watch
GM Joe Douglas and Saleh took an interesting tack during the 2021 NFL Draft when they picked a couple of players -- Jamie Sherwood (Auburn) and Hamsah Nasirildeen (Florida State) -- who played safety in college but who the Jets are projecting as young and quick LBs.
Sherwood (6-1, 216) played safety for the Tigers mostly on first and second down. After, he shifted to weakside LB on third down. "My versatility got me here," Sherwood said. "They could put me at defensive end or cornerback. I'm just going to go out there and make plays."
Nasirildeen (6-3, 215) has impressive size for a safety. He had knee surgery in November 2019 and missed much of the 2020 season, playing in two games with 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass break-ups and an interception.
"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," Saleh said of the rookie 'backers. "So, we feel like they'll be able to translate to linebacker pretty easily."
Can Mosley come back from basically two full seasons of inaction to make an impact? The early reviews are favorable. Ulbrich said of Mosley: "He is one of those authentic, alpha leaders, just knows how to run the defense. He's the field general, he's the old-school Mike that you look to and I'm very, very excited what he can do in this defense. I'm excited for him just personally getting back on the field because I know this game is very, very important to him."
Can Blake Cashman overcome injuries (11 games over two seasons) and stake his claim on the weakside position?
Can the two draft picks -- Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen -- develop quick enough to give Ulbrich options at OLB?
See the Jets LBs Leading Up to the 2021 Season