Scouting Jets UDFA LB Jackson Sirmon

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at a Jets linebacker prospect

With the 2024 NFL draft behind us, we’ve moved on to look at each of the New York Jets’ undrafted free agent signings, continuing today with former Cal linebacker Jackson Sirmon.

The 24-year old Sirmon is listed at 6’2” and 240 pounds. He was a first-team all Pac-12 selection in 2022 after having transferred from Washington to Cal following the 2021 season. He was having another good year in 2023, but then he got injured and missed the second half of the season.

Background

Sirmon, who has NFL pedigree because his father was a starting linebacker for the Tennessee Titans for four years, was a four-star recruit out of high school. He headed to Washington in 2018, where he was able to play in the last four games and retain his redshirt into 2019. He only played on special teams, but he registered one tackle and one forced fumble.

He played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, racking up 28 tackles, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

In 2020, the Huskies only played four games due to the pandemic, but Sirmon started all four and had 27 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and another fumble recovery.

He remained a full-time starter in 2021 and was a Pac-12 honorable mention as he racked up 92 tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and the first interception and pass defensed of his career. At the end of the season, he opted to enter the transfer portal and moved to the Cal Bears, where his father was the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach.

2022 saw Sirmon excel in his first year with the Bears. He was voted to the all-Pac-12 first team as he had 104 tackles, career-highs for tackles for loss (six) and pass breakups (four) and the first 3.5 sacks of his career. He also forced a fumble, intercepted another pass and scored a touchdown on a fumble.

Looking to build on this in 2023 with an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, Sirmon had a productive start to the year with 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, two pass breakups and a sack in just six games. However, he was injured in the sixth game and missed the rest of the year.

Sirmon was a combine snub, but he got invited to the Senior Bowl and had a great week that had some analysts saying his stock was on the rise. However, after an underwhelming pro day he ended up not being selected.

Having gone undrafted, Sirmon’s contract with the New York Jets included just $2,500 in guaranteed money.

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

Measurables/Athleticism

Sirmon has a stocky build and a strong frame but he has short arms and isn’t particularly fast.

He didn’t do the bench press or run a 40-yard dash at his pro day, but he did the jumps and agility drills and posted numbers that were about average for all of them.

Usage

Sirmon has been an off-ball linebacker for his whole career, often lining up inside. He occasionally follows someone out wide or into the slot and doesn’t come up to the edge very often.

Making reads/instincts

Being a coach’s son, Sirmon is regarded as smart. He often needs to make quick reads to overcome his lack of speed or beat blockers before they can get their hands on him and exploit his lack of length.


He has good awareness and is disciplined in terms of his gap integrity with good read and react abilities.


While not a player that blows assignments very often, Sirmon has been involved in some breakdowns that have led to successful offensive plays.


In college, Sirmon won the 101 Club Academic Award, was on the 2021 CoSIDA academic all-district team and was a three-time member of the Pac-12’s fall honor roll.

Run defense

Sirmon was always productive and consistent against the run, showcasing the ability to go sideline-to-sideline.


When he’s not blocked, Sirmon is at his best, as he can make decisive reads in order to get to the ball carrier immediately.


It’s a different story when a blocker gets their hands on him, because he often has to concede ground to get off the block. This can lead to him being blocked well out of the action.

Coverage skills

Sirmon is regarded as limited in coverage. As a result, he was mostly employed as someone who can just drop off and read and react. However, he would drop deeper or run with a downfield route from time to time.


In his career, he gave up a reception on almost three-quarters of his targets but for an average of just under 10 yards per catch. The longest play he gave up went for 32 yards, but he was beaten for four touchdowns in his career.

Sirmon showed improved ball skills with seven pass breakups and two interceptions over his last three seasons.


At the senior bowl, Sirmon did an excellent job in coverage, both in one-on-one drills and in scrimmages, where he intercepted multiple passes.

Special teams

Special teams is where Sirmon will need to make an impression with the Jets. He has experience of playing on all units other than the placekicking unit.

He had seven special teams tackles in his career, mostly covering punts. He also forced one fumble on a kickoff.

In addition, he ran for two first downs on fake punts in his career, after the ball was snapped to him as the up-back.

He also blocked in punt protection and on kickoff returns, showing good aggression at times.


Sirmon has also tried to add to his usefulness by working out for teams as a long snapper during the offseason.

Tackling

Earlier on in his career, the book on Sirmon was that he struggled to change direction and he was criticized for taking over-aggressive angles.


However, he seemed to improve at this, and his tackle efficiency was much improved at the end of his career, perhaps as a direct result of the coaching he received from his father. He was 7th in the nation among linebackers with a 50-percent snap count in 2022 for tackle efficiency and was even better in 2023 until he got hurt as he ended up 9th among all linebackers with at least 20 solo tackles.


He had four forced fumbles in his college career, including one to preserve a win at the goal line in overtime.


Pass rush

Sirmon had 4.5 sacks in his 18 games with the Bears, having previously not registered any sacks with the Huskies. He shows an ability to time and disguise his blitzes and closes effectively.


With the Huskies, he didn’t blitz as often but his pressure rate was still relatively good.

Physicality

Sirmon is quite a big hitter and not afraid to take on blockers, although as already noted, he’s usually better off to try and avoid them when in space.

One disappointing thing to see was that he would often allow ball carriers to fall forwards at the end of the run, which cost him a few potential short yardage stops.


Attitude/Demeanor

As noted, Sirmon is regarded as smart and is a coach’s son, as well as exhibiting a good work ethic and toughness.

Perhaps the best example of his team-first attitude was last year when he missed the second half of the year due to injury so he instead signed up as a student-assistant to coach with the linebackers.

Injuries

As noted, Sirmon missed the second half of last season, having previously been a durable player who didn’t miss significant time. The injury was a torn bicep that occurred as he tried to make an arm tackle during a game.

Scheme fit

Sirmon played in two programs in college and his smarts should enable him to get to grips with Jeff Ulbrich’s system.

The Bears played with a 2-4-5 base under Sirmon’s father, which essentially means the two inside linebackers have similar roles to those within any conventional 4-2-5 base. The Jets, of course, play plenty of subpackages and usually have two linebackers on the field.

If Sirmon is regarded as limited against the pass, he might have more chances of seeing the field in 4-3 base packages with New York. However, his improvements displayed during senior bowl practices might mean the team will want to see how he’ll fare in coverage situations.

Conclusions

Sirmon should get plenty of playing time in preseason, probably alongside fellow undrafted free agent Jimmy Ciarlo with the third unit.

Much like Ciarlo, he brings some special teams potential, but the Jets would seem to be higher on the Army product based on the fact that they gave him a significantly higher salary guarantee despite the fact Sirmon was arguably a higher-profile prospect.

This leaves Sirmon as a long-shot to make the roster and battling with players like Ciarlo and Zaire Barnes to be considered for the practice squad.

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Title: Scouting Jets UDFA LB Jackson Sirmon
Author: Bent

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