Jets rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner will start for Gang Green this season, beginning with their opening game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11.
“He’s going to be our Week 1 starter,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “With the overall body of work since OTAs, it’s clear that the kid is going to be pretty good.”
“He’s been fantastic.”
The Jets selected Gardner with the 4th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of the University of Cincinnati, and he’s been an integral part of their defense this offseason.
Gang Green made the investment in Gardner believing he could be a shut-down corner in the NFL, and he’s proven to be the player that they were searching for — and could potentially be the best defensive position player the team has had since Darrelle Revis locked down opposing wide receivers between 2007 and 2016.
Gardner stands at 6’3″ and 190 pounds, which gives him a size advantage over most of his potential opponents.
While rookie cornerbacks usually struggle to adjust to the speed of the NFL, Gardner boasts professional-level footwork and elite athleticism that should help him going forward in the pros.
“He has lived up to exactly what we expected,” Saleh added.
For more coverage of Sauce Gardner and the Jets, head to amNY.com.
The starting job wasn’t handed to him, according to Saleh, who said that his on-the-field performance showed the coaching staff enough to grant him the slot in the starting lineup.
“I appreciate the way that they made me work for it instead of being like, ‘he’s the fourth pick, put him in there,’” said the defender. “They made me work for it.”
Gardner has also developed a reputation for trash-talking in his young career, which has made him a point of interest at training camp.
“I do get a little crazy. I think I got a problem,” he said in an interview with the Athletic. “II don’t know why I gotta take everything serious.”
The team needs all the help they can get, as Gang Green allowed the 3rd-most passing yards to opposing offenses last season at 4,409. Only the defenses of the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks allowed more yards in the air.