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Scouting Jets linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen

Duke v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Over the next few months, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ rookies. We continue today with linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen.

The 22-year old Nasirildeen is listed at 6’3” and 215 pounds and was the 186th overall pick in the sixth round of this year’s draft. He was a second team all-ACC selection in 2019 after racking up over 100 tackles, but got injured at the end of the season and was limited to two games last year.

Background

Nasirildeen was a highly sought-after four-star high school recruit who received offers from a number of major programs before deciding to attend Florida State.

As a true freshman in 2017, Nasirildeen saw action on special teams and as a reserve safety, but did start two games, including one where he racked up 10 tackles against Clemson. He ended up with 28 tackles and three pass breakups on the year.

In 2018, his role increased and he racked up 91 tackles despite only starting five of 12 games. He added two pass breakups and also intercepted the first pass of his career.

He started 10 of 12 games in 2019 and led the team for the second year in a row with 101 tackles. He also forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes as he was named to the all-ACC second team. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending knee injury in the final regular season game.

In 2020, Nasirildeen battled back as he tried to get back on the field and eventually saw action in two games. He was productive, though, with 13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a pass breakup.

After a solid senior bowl performance, Nasirildeen wasn’t completely healthy at his pro day and concerns over his medical status meant that he dropped all the way into the sixth round of the 2021 draft despite being widely projected as a day two pick or even a potential first-rounder.

The Jets picked Nasirildeen with the first of their three sixth round selections and announced that they will be playing him as a linebacker.

Now let’s take a look at what Nasirildeen brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Much like his fellow draftee, Jamien Sherwood - who also played at safety in college, Nasirildeen is a little undersized for the linebacker position at 215 pounds, but more than makes up for this with an excellent wingspan. Nasirildeen has even better length than Sherwood with an 83-inch wingspan and looks like he could easily add another 10 pounds or so to his frame.

While his film displays excellent range and burst, Nasirildeen wasn’t healthy at his pro day and therefore was unable to complete a full workout.

The numbers he did post, including a 32-inch vertical, disappointing agility numbers and 17 bench press reps, were underwhelming and he didn’t attempt a 40-yard dash or three cone drill.

Clearly these numbers are not representative of Nasirildeen’s athletic ability from when he was completely healthy, but that’s the main question surrounding him because he was unable to prove himself as fully recovered since his knee injury.

His 40-yard dash time was estimated at around 4.6 seconds but may have been even faster than that. Also, online footage of him throwing down dunks on the basketball court would suggest his vertical is probably closer to 40 inches than 30.

Usage

Within his safety role at college, Nasirildeen saw reps all over the place, playing deep, up at the line or in the slot. He obviously has plenty of experience of lining up in the box and so the transition to linebacker hopefully won’t be too difficult for him.

Nasirildeen played some linebacker in high school and also practiced with the linebacker group regularly at FSU.

Making reads/Instincts

Scouting reports don’t tend to be as complimentary of Nasirildeen’s football IQ and play recognition as they are for Sherwood but there are plenty of plays where he makes a quick read and immediately attacks the play.

At times, he’s perhaps reacting rather than anticipating but he does a good job of reading this reverse to blow it up.

It’s in downfield coverage rather than on plays close to the line of scrimmage where his coverage discipline or instincts may be lacking.

However, that may not be a big part of his role now that he’s making the transition to the linebacker position.

Run defense

As usual, the first consideration when a defensive back converts to linebacker is that they’re going to get overwhelmed by blockers when they’re playing in the box. However, Nasirildeen brings a physicality to the role where he’s not afraid to take on a blocker and is able to use his length or quickness to avoid getting stuck on blocks.

On this play, he makes a play in the hole on a run blitz, beating the blocker to a spot where he can fill up a running lane.

Coverage skills

Nasirildeen has been employed in coverage in various roles with the Seminoles, often ranging deep or latching onto downfield assignments. However, it’s his ability to match up close to the line of scrimmage that may intrigue the Jets.

In particular, Nasirildeen held up well when he was tasked with matching up with Kyle Pitts early on in their 2019 matchup, only to then get hurt. He also impressed in one-on-one coverage drills at the senior bowl. If he can handle those kind of assignments against good pass catchers, that will make him a useful defensive asset.

He also matched up in press coverage against wide receivers at times. Here you see he initially slowed up his man in the slot and then stayed with him all the way across the field for the pass breakup.

However, against a bigger wide receiver in the red zone here, he concentrates on the initial jam and isn’t prepared for the quick back shoulder throw.

Nasirildeen broke up nine passes in his four seasons and picked off four. One saw him jump a route on a slightly underthrown ball and another saw him stay with his man as he tried to get deep on a double move.

Having played some tight end and wide receiver in high school, Nasirildeen showcased some of those ball skills on this spectacular diving interception.

He showcases his athletic ability on this return too. This ultimately went for an 80-yard touchdown return.

Tackling

Despite playing the safety position, Nasirildeen hits like a linebacker. In fact, the linebackers would often hold up ball carriers while it would be Nasirildeen coming from deep to pack a punch with the killer blow.

As a sign of his range in pursuit, he ran down Tutu Atwell from behind on this play. Atwell ran a 4.39 at his pro day.

Nasirildeen’s tackle efficiency was acceptable because he was so productive, but he did miss 10 tackles in both his sophomore and junior years. At times, he would go for a big hit without wrapping up, which is something he needs to work on.

With his long arms, when he does wrap up, he can be extremely effective, extending his range and making open field tackles outside his frame.

In 2019, Nasirildeen was credited with three forced fumbles, two of which came on hard hits that jarred the ball loose with the other being stripped from the ball carrier from behind.

Pass rush

Nasirildeen would blitz from time to time and isn’t afraid to aggressively take on a back in blitz pick-up. He generates pressure at a reasonable rate and gets his hands up to contest passes, but only had one sack in his career.

Physicality

As already noted, Nasirildeen is extremely physical for a defensive back and should therefore bring the same traits to the linebacker position. He’s disruptive when his man is running routes, will take on blockers and makes some big hits as a tackler.

Nasrildeen had four defensive penalties in his career and all four of them were personal fouls, including two that saw him ejected for targeting. He also had a late hit and a facemask penalty. Naturally this means he was not flagged for defensive holding, illegal contact or pass interference.

Special teams

Nasirildeen has seen plenty of work in a variety of roles on special teams, including in his freshman year where he played on the kickoff coverage unit and was a gunner on punts, racking up seven tackles in total.

His special teams role decreased as his defensive role increased and he only had four tackles over the next two years in kick coverage and didn’t play special teams at all in his two 2020 games.

He’s also seen action as a blocker, including as a vice on the punt return unit, and rushing kicks.

Intangibles

Nasrildeen is another good teammate and hard worker with solid character. He impressed coaches and teammates with his toughness as he battled back from injury to get back on the field in 2020 and won the team’s Mark Bonasonte Award.

While he was rehabbing, he still traveled with the team to provide guidance and leadership to some of FSU’s youngsters.

As noted, he was ejected twice for targeting and can get chippy with opposing players due to his aggressive style.

Injuries

Nasirildeen tore his ACL in the final regular season game in 2019 and was limited to just two appearances in 2020. In the first of those two appearance, he seemed a little tentative, but looked more like he was back to his best in the other game a few weeks later. He then also played in the senior bowl and again performed well.

However, he was limited at his pro day due to a hamstring issue. This is perhaps a sign that he was pushing hard in an effort to get back to 100 percent.

Although he did play those games last year, the Jets may opt to be tentative with Nasirildeen and could place him on the PUP list at the start of training camp. They took a similar approach with both Blessuan Austin and Bryce Hall, although that was the previous coaching staff and in each case, they had suffered the injury in the previous season.

Scheme Fit

Having played a variety of roles and for three different coaches during his career, Nasirildeen could benefit from being in a settled system, even though his versatility will be exploited within his role.

As with Sherwood, he seems a logical fit for a safety-to-linebacker conversion in Robert Saleh’s system. The initial thought was that the Jets would pit these guys against each other with the hope that one might rise to prominence and be ready to contribute. However, it’s possible they have slightly different roles designed for these players, perhaps with Sherwood bringing physicality to a role on running downs and Nasirildeen’s versatility adding to the Jets’ coverage options in sub-packages.

In the long run, it’s not impossible the two could play together, perhaps with Sherwood wearing the headset and Nasirildeen flying around and making plays.

Conclusions

There’s no question the Jets have a potential bargain in Nasirildeen but obviously there is uncertainty as to how soon, if ever, he’ll get back to where he was athletically prior to his knee injury

From his film, his highlights are arguably more impressive than Sherwood’s perhaps suggesting he has a greater upside and he’s probably a better athlete if he can get back to 100 percent.

It will be interesting to see how quickly these players develop and compare and contrast their progress and how they are used once camp gets underway.