Hamsah Nasirildeen’s first NFL game will include a strangely familiar – and not entirely pleasant – coincidence.
He will be on one side of an in-state rivalry, likely as a starting outside linebacker for the Jets on Saturday. Fellow rookie Kadarius Toney will be on the opposite side for the Giants when the two teams open their preseason schedules.
Just like on Nov. 30, 2019, when Nasirildeen, playing for Florida State, tore the ACL in his left knee over-pursuing a tackle on Toney as the Florida receiver cut back across the field. Enough similarity to create nerves about a repeat scenario?
“Nah, I don’t think like that,” Nasirildeen said. “I honestly just think he’s a good player and I like the way he plays the game, but I don’t concern myself with stuff like that. I’ve got to tackle people every day.”
Nasirildeen has been a quick study in his move from college safety to NFL outside linebacker. So much so that the sixth-round pick surprisingly seems ahead of veteran Blake Cashman for the chance to start opposite C.J. Mosley in the Jets’ 4-3 defense.
“I try to pick his brain every time he talks,” Nasirildeen said of Mosley, who is returning from his own year away after a COVID-19 opt-out. “Even as he is playing, I try to watch how he steals plays and steals opportunities.”
It seems it took Nasirildeen longer to get used to the linebacker label – “I’ve said ‘safety’ a couple times,” he admitted – than to earn the coaches’ trust.
“Hamsah looks fantastic. He’s got a lot of energy to him,” coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s a matter of continuing to learn the game and learn the process.”
Nasirildeen returned from the ACL tear to play the final two games of the 2020 season, giving NFL scouts a chance to evaluate his movement after surgery and coaches a chance to understand his commitment. Still, he fell further than expected during the draft and is changing positions.
“It’s the same game,” he said. “Just seeing it from a different perspective. Everything is a little bit closer, happening a little bit faster, so things like my footwork and my eye discipline are a little more key just because of the distance I am from the plays.”
If he and Toney line up face-to-face in tight quarters, there won’t be lingering bad blood.
“He’s out there trying to make a play, I’m out there trying to make a play,” Nasirildeen said. “That’s all we can do.”
Offensive lineman David Moore debuted in Jets practice Tuesday, one day after the undrafted rookie was claimed off waivers from the Panthers. Did the Jets find a steal? The Bears, Browns and Raiders also attempted to claim Moore, according to ESPN, but were lower down the priority list.
The Jets’ Green-White scrimmage at MetLife Stadium last Saturday was a chance for rookies to get adjusted to the stage before facing the Giants.
“Seeing the stadium from the inside for the first time and being on that field was a surreal moment for me,” cornerback Michael Carter II said, “but also I felt like I belonged in that place and I had a job to do. I didn’t feel like it was too big for me to be able to do what I needed to do.”