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Focusing in on Jamien Sherwood

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the 5th edition of the “Focus In” series, where we do a deep dive into the newest Jets draftees. If you’ve missed any of the previous editions, don’t worry just click the name below:

Tristen Hoge. Kenny Yeboah. Jason Pinnock. Hamsah Nasrildeen.

In many ways, today's article is going to mirror the feature on Hamsah Nasrildeen. Both were college safeties with overhang linebacker skill sets. Both players are excellent tacklers, both hit hard and play fast, both are better with the play in front of them, and both will be looking to offer scheme versatility to Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich.

Jamien Sherwood has already signed his rookie deal, the first draft selection to do so. The Auburn product signed his deal which should be worth around 4 years and $3.8 million based on where he was selected. The contract signing was confirmed by his agent Drew Rosenhaus. With contracts being slotted based on where a player was drafted, it’s a lot easier to get these deals done, even so it’s always good to get one over the line.

To say that football has always been important to Sherwood would be an understatement. Jamien grew up in Jensen Beach in Florida and was playing flag football as early as 5 years old. He became a starting varsity safety at Jensen Beach high as a freshman, while also playing as a quarterback, receiver and running back on offense (all be it not at the same time). As a junior he returned 4 punts for touchdowns and posted 69 tackles and 2 interceptions. In 2017 as a senior he was named All-State after finishing with 71 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Sherwood was part of the 2018 recruiting class. He was a 4* recruit and 247 listed him as the 257th best prospect in the country, the 21st best safety and 47th best player in the state of Florida. Sherwood received plenty of interest from programs like Miami, Florida, Michigan and Oregon, but it was the Tigers who caught his eye after he was recruited by defensive backs coach Greg Brown, a man who had coached three Jim Thorpe Award Winners, which is handed to the country's best defensive back each year.

Speaking about the kind of player he was in high school, Jensen Beach Coach Tim Caffey said:

“If you want to play a speed game and spread it out with five wide, he can do that. He can cover any skill position. If you want to line up with the old-fashioned single wing, he can play that, too. He can pick off a pass or you can punt to him at your own risk. He’s liable to take it back.”

Tim Caffey has been coaching for 25 years, so he knows a thing or two about football. In all those years of coaching football, Jamien Sherwood was the only freshman to start varsity and in his first game he played two different positions and came down with an interception.

There is a great story about Jamien in high school where he ended up playing three positions in one snap. He started at defensive end before the snap, dropped back to safety before the QB got a handle on it and then inched up to linebacker by the time the QB had started surveying the field. Before he headed out for that play he told his coach “I know what I’m doing”, and it turns out he did because he came down with the interception.

“You have those players who come around once in a lifetime or once every 10-15 years, and Jamien is one of those kids,” Caffey said. “He’s a Jensen Beach legend.”

After enrolling at Auburn in January, Sherwood saw immediate action in 2018, mainly as a strong safety. He played in all 13 games recording 23 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 4 pass defenses and his first college interception against Alabama State. He played his football under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and immediately showcases his downhill power and tackling ability. Auburn went 8-5 on the season and Sherwood was part of the roster that won the Music City Bowl, beating Purdue by 63-14. Pro Football Focus rated him as the best freshman safety in the country in 2018.

During the 2019 season, Jamien again served as a backup safety appearing in 13 games. However, unlike 2018 he did get the opportunity to start two games in 2019. He came in to replace senior Jeremiah Dinson against LSU and Ole Miss, with the regular starter suffering with a virus. Sherwood excelled in Kevin Steele’s new look 3-1-7 scheme that was designed to slow down the potent LSU offense. He finished that game with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery and 2 passes broken up. He flashed his skills the week after recording 6 tackles and a tackle for loss against Ole Miss, as Auburn won the game 20-14. His success didn’t come as a surprise to anyone involved with the football program:

“We didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know,” linebacker Chandler Wooten said. “Kid’s a baller, man. Very good tackler, physical, can cover, can do it all. He did everything we knew he was going to do in the game. It didn’t surprise us one bit.”

Sherwood’s explained his mentality heading into those games:

“Without Jeremiah, you know, that was a huge loss, but you know, we’re trained well,” Sherwood said. “We’re trained assassins, so Coach Crime (Wesley McGriff) gets us all ready. Everybody has to know every position. Everybody has to be ready, because you know, never know what happens so it’s always next man up, so when you get in there, just play ball.”

After an extremely impressive 2019 campaign where he recorded 43 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 5 passes defended, 2020 represented his chance to shine. Seniors and starting safeties from 2019 Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas had moved on, and Sherwood was being relied upon to take over not just the production, but the leadership too.

During the 2020 season Jamien was lined up all over the formation in Kevin Steele’s base 4-2-5 base system. He did play predominantly in the box (310 snaps), but he also saw time over the slot receiver (140 snaps) and deep as a free safety (193). He did what was asked and he excelled across the board. If you’re looking for his weaknesses you can just read the weaknesses from Hamsah’s report, its the same and it’s interesting the Jets drafted two very similar prospects so close to one another. Sherwood’s attitude was always outstanding at Auburn and as you can see from the quote below he’s the kind of prospect most coaches would love.

“Coach Crime (defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff) likes to say he’s a high productive player with low maintenance,” fellow junior Smoke Monday said. “That meaning, like, he’s not with all the talking. He just gets right to action.”

He finished the 2020 season with 75 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1 sack and 3 passes defended. If you watch the tape of Sherwood he really shows up and while he doesn’t have a ton of those momentum-shifting plays that you’d want to see from a guy as physically gifted as Sherwood, you also won’t spot many mistakes. He reads the game well, often getting a jump on receivers, he can work through blocks, he can take on blocks to allow his fellow defenders to get the splashy plays. He’s about as sure a tackler as you’re going to find in this class, only missing 4 tackles on 71 attempts in 2020, he shows an explosion to the ball and short-area quickness, and key for the Jets he showed his versatility:

“We have multiple packages,” Sherwood said, “so on first and second down, I was at safety. Depending on what the call was, either I was in the middle of the field or I was a rolling-down safety in the flat area. Some calls, I’m a stretch half or just a half-field player or in the thirds. On third downs, that’s when I actually do move down to the weakside linebacker, and I get my chances to blitz, go make plays in the backfield, shed blocks and tackles and just be a ballplayer.”

He tested poorly at his pro-day in the forty-yard dash, running a 4.75, so long speed is a concern, however, his tape doesn’t look slow and I’m always more interested in the short area explosion with these types of players, so while that may have forced some teams to drop him, it doesn’t concern me that much. PFF had him as a 3rd round talent in their evaluation, and his floor seems to be as a key special teams contributor which you’ll take in the 5th round, but chances are he can be so much more.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity that these young men have to come in and compete and see if they can make an impact on this team at the linebacker level with Sherwood and Hamsah,” New York coach Robert Saleh said. “Those are two very long, fast, versatile athletes that kind of fit the mold of what we ask out of our linebackers – the run and hit and speed and coverage ability.”