Faced with the prospect of C.J. Mosley's balky hamstring that might keep him out of Sunday's AFC East clash against the Patriots, Jets head coach Robert Saleh had two simple words to describe Mosley's likely replacement, rookie Jamien Sherwood.
"He belongs," Saleh said during his press conference on Friday.
Swapping No. 57 for No. 44, who played safety at Auburn, is no one's idea of an optimal situation for the Jets (1-4) when they travel to Foxborough, MA, to face New England (2-4), which has yet to win a game this season in four tries at Gillette Stadium.
Mosley will be a game-time decision, Saleh said, and there was little worry in his responses about putting the green dot on the helmet of 6-2, 216-pound Sherwood. (Players with the dot on the back of their helmets, one on offense and one on defense, are the only ones with the ability to hear communication from coaches on the sideline.) Sherwood, in a "2-Minute Drill" segment with team reporter Eric Allen, said that he's ready and eager for the challenge should Mosley not be available.
"I've been very comfortable, really since the day I got here," Sherwood said. "It's the place they started me at and for me, the main thing is communication. It's always about the eyes, your eyes will take you to the ball."
The Jets' ball-hawking group of linebackers has been one of the bright spots on defense. Mosley leads the team in tackles while the waiver-wire steal Quincy Williams has notched three forced fumbles. Blake Cashman is back from injury and available, as is Del'Shawn Phillips.
"We're fortunate that we have some depth at the position," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "We've had some guys that have played a lot of football early, especially, in their careers. Jamien [Sherwood], he's an unusual rookie because, you know, rookies, they're so known for, not necessarily having the awareness, the ability to communicate, all those things, whereas Jamien is not that at all. He carries himself like a vet. He communicates like a vet. Although he doesn't have the experience that a C.J. has, he's a guy that we have a lot of trust in. So, if C.J. can't go, Jamien will be our guy."
Like his teammates, Sherwood used his week off to return home, to Jensen Beach, FL, taking time to recharge his batteries but not turning off his football brain, not for a New York minute.
"I went home, saw my family, got some work in, got off my feet," he said. "The coaches said to take a break, but I couldn't. I was still watching film, keeping my mental in the game."
Asked about the vibe this week, he said: "We have a great football team despite our record. We came back with a lot of energy and basically we came back restarting the season at 0-0. At this point we can build an identity. It's a great way to start this off with a team in our division."
So far this season, Sherwood has played in four games (three starts, while being inactive in the Jets' Week 2 loss to the Patriots) and has 12 total tackles (8 solo). Though the numbers may not be eye-popping, it's Sherwood's intangibles that bring a twinkle to Saleh's eyes.
"We're really excited about Jamien, he's a rookie and maybe what he lacks in experience he makes up in smarts and mental quickness ... he understands football," Saleh said on Friday. "He's going to have rookie moments, but the more he plays the better he'll get. He's one of the guys who's going to be a staple here. He studies his butt off. As for his size, he is going to get bigger when he gets a full NFL offseason and meal plan. He has the ability to uncoil and tackle people, one of the best in the draft. He doesn't give up many leaky yards. Let's just say that and he's only going to get better."
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