Jets coaches, veterans praise new defensive additions

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Jets' Sauce Gardner, right, takes part in drills with teammate D.J. Reed
Jets’ Sauce Gardner, right, takes part in drills with teammate D.J. Reed.
AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

As training camp continues to get underway, Jets coaches and veterans are heaping praise on the team’s new defensive additions. 

The team, which recorded a forgettable 4–13 record last season, made a number of offseason acquisitions, including 7 selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, along with several free agent signings that they hope will improve their roster for the upcoming season.  

Many of those new players are on the defensive side of the ball, which was a huge area of need for a team that surrendered the league-most 6,760 yards to opposing teams last season. 

The team’s first pick in the draft, cornerback Sauce Gardner out of Cincinnati, drew widespread acclaim from his new teammates and coaches for his on-the-field abilities, along with his ability to learn the more-complex NFL playbooks. 

“Sauce Gardner is long, explosive, he strains in-and-out of his breaks,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “He is a sponge at just learning, and just collecting all kinds of information.”

Sophomore cornerback Michael Carter II similarly praised Gardner, predicting he would be “special” for the Jets.

“He’s built for it…he’s not afraid to be wrong, and he learns from his mistakes,” said Carter. “He’s going to be special for sure.”

In another draft-day addition to the defense, the team brought on defensive end Jermaine Johnson from Florida State later in the first round, which adds another top-tier talent to attack opposing quarterbacks. 

Saleh, one day before the players began donning pads for full-contact practices, said the incoming rookie needed to prove that he has the strength to go up against opposing offensive lineman, but hailed his natural instincts on the field.   

“We like where he’s at. He’s got all the athleticism in the world,” said Saleh. “The one thing we want to see when we get pads on is the power aspects of his game. He’s got all the fluidity; he can work on the edge; he’s got great hand-eye coordination. He can do all that stuff, but the best way you win in this league is by running through people.”

“As he works that part of it, and gets better at it, that will open up the rest of his game,” Saleh added. “He’s got a long way to go, but we like where he’s at.” 

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Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, meanwhile, got a major boost for his squad over the weekend when the team signed veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander, who played last season with the New Orleans Saints — saying his presence in the locker room will help the youngsters grow into their new professional roles. 

“He’s got an edge to him. He has an ability to elevate people around him,” said Ulbrich. “He’ll make us better.”

As for why he chose to sign with the Jets, Alexander praised the character of Gang Green’s roster. 

“I love the team. I love the guys they brought in,” he said. “They’ve got some dogs on the team, and I wanted to be a part of it.” 

In another veteran signing, the Jets brought on pass rusher Jacob Martin on a 3-year deal worth $16.5 million, and Saleh said that the Gang Green coaching staff has big plans for the 26-year-old.

“[We’re] really excited about Jacob, and what he brings — as a football player, not just a pass-rusher. His special teams value, his ability to do multiple things,” said Saleh. “He’s a really really cool football player, he stands for all the right things, and we couldn’t be happier that he’s here.”

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