Jets Fans United: Rookie of the Year Candidate CB1 Sauce Gardner

September 6, 2022

New York Jets rookie has a shot in the dark, unfortunately, corners have to have picks to win this award. Gardner will have some high-profile matchups, with the Jets facing Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill and whoever Aaron Rodgers is throwing to a total of seven games.

Early Predictions for Jets Rookie CB

Sauce Gardner already has the confidence and persona of a superstar, but now the question is if he has the production. The Jets appear to be building a defensive identity as a team, and Sauce will play a major role in this moving forward. Being able to stop impressive wide receiver play is essential in the AFC East, so this is a solid pick. Gardner will get his opportunity early and often with the Jets and is certain to be challenged in a way that has not yet been the case.

The Jets are an organization in need of a spark and may have found the guy to provide it. Whether it be on a pick-6, a fumble recovery, or even on a punt return, expect Sauce Gardner to find pay dirt in his rookie season. Gardner has the play to back it up. In his three-year college career, Sauce Gardner did not allow a single touchdown in coverage.

Gardner ready to earn ‘Sauce’ nickname

“I don’t mind. It happened in college,” Gardner said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “It’s something that comes naturally. A playmaker is a playmaker. It’s not something I go into practice or games thinking I gotta do this so they can call me ‘Sauce.’ It’s just going to come naturally like it did in college.”

Jets Sauce Ready to Take Flight Courtesy of USA Today

“He’s been fantastic,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Bryce Hall has had a very good training camp as well, but at the same time, with the overall body of work since OTAs, it’s clear that the kid is going to be pretty good.”

Gardner has welcomed advice from D.J. Reed, the team’s other starting cornerback, safety Jordan Whitehead and Hall.

“He asks a lot of questions in the meeting room, and that just makes me want to ask questions as well because it’s like he’s trying to pick the cornerback coach’s brain,” Gardner said of Hall. “I was like, ’Oh yeah, I got certain questions I need to be asking, too.”

There are high expectations in New York for Gardner and the Jets, who have the NFL’s longest active postseason drought at 11 years. The Jets aren’t considered a playoff contender, but fans want to see them playing meaningful games in December.

“We’re just taking it in,” Gardner said. “We’re not getting caught up in outside noise because that can damage teams if teams focus on it. We just have been having our head down and been grinding. All the free agents, all the new draft picks, all the people that have been on the team, we are all just buying into the program, buying into what Coach Saleh says. He’s a great Coach and he’s going to lead us the right way.”

Will touchdown streak will be broken?

It is extremely impressive to have gone three years without allowing a touchdown in college. This streak unfortunately will not last as Gardner is sure to be targeted in a way he never has before. Even as a rookie, Gardner will likely be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s primary offensive threat. The perfect streak of defense is unfortunately sure to come to an end this season.

This is not to say Gardner will not flourish as a rookie. This was a great pick by defensive-minded Jets head coach Robert Saleh. Sauce Gardner is expected to become a foundational piece of this Jets franchise moving forward. Expect his swagger and production to breathe some life into the Jets and give them a better chance at success than they have seen in years.