Could a Jets player win Rookie of the Year? It’s possible

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Rookie Jets running back Breece Hall carries the ball down to the 1-yard line against the Miami Dolphins.
Rookie Jets running back Breece Hall carries the ball down to the 1-yard line against the Miami Dolphins.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

The Jets had a tremendous offseason this year, when they brought on seven rookies — including a few that have become instant contributors for their better-than-expected season. 

There are two main possibilities for a Gang Green player to win Rookie of the Year, including one on defensive player, and another on the offensive side of the ball. 

Let’s take a look at both of them:

Cornerback Sauce Gardner 

Gang Green drafted Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he’s been an outstanding addition to the Jets secondary through five games. 

While it typically takes a while for rookie corners to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL game, Gardner has performed as a long-down defender, even when going up against some of the NFL’s best wideouts. 

So far this season, the rookie defender has allowed only 127 passing yards to his opponents. 

Last game, Gardner went up against Tyreek Hill of the Dolphins on several occasions, and helped slow the explosive pass catcher — forcing him to finish with just 47 yards and no scores on seven targets. 

He also caught the first interception of his career, when he undercut River Cracraft’s route on a throw from Skylar Thompson in the second quarter. The Jets went on to score a touchdown on the following drive. 

Gardner has shown the ability to plan one-on-one along with outside, or drop back into zone coverage and menace opposing offenses. 

If he were to be awarded the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, he would be the first cornerback to receive that honor since Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore did so in 2017.

He will need to compete against some other stellar rookie defenders, most notably lineback Devin Lloyd of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who was drafted 27th overall. Lloyd has recorded 26 solo tackles (49 total), and two interceptions through his first five games. 

Beating him will be tough, but Gardner has shown the ability to be a true number-one option for the Gang Green defense. 

Running back Breece Hall

Just one week ago, Hall was looking like a solid option at running back, but nothing worthy of true Rookie of the Year consideration. 

Then came Hall’s offensive explosion against Miami, when he recorded 97 yards and a score on the ground, and another 100 yards in the passing game. That included a tremendous 79 yard catch that ended at the one yard line. (Unfortunately for Hall, fellow running back Michael Carter took the field and scored a rushing touchdown on the next play).

The Jets drafted Hall in the middle of the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, making him the highest-picked running back in that class of rookies. 

On the season, he boasts 484 combined yards and three touchdowns. 

If Hall can continue the production he had in Week 5, and become the centerpiece of the Jets rushing attack that they hoped he would, he’ll be given many looks when award season voting rolls around. 

Like Gardner, Hall will have significant competition for the coveted rookie award — including from Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave. 

Pierce has racked up 469 total yards on the season with three touchdowns, making his stats similar to Hall’s. Though, the Jets rookie has had 85 combined rushes and pass targets, compared with Pierce’s 101 (and the Texans have only one a single game this year) so the Jets rookie has a solid case to be ahead of his fellow rookie from the Texans. 

Olave, meanwhile, is probably most NFL insiders’ pick to win the award as of now. He has recorded 389 yards in the air on 25 receptions, while finding the end zone twice. With questionable quarterback play in New Orleans, he’s still found chances to produce in a huge way. 

But the season still has 12 more games to go, so Hall’s future play gives him a chance to catch up. 

For more coverage of the Jets and their rookies, head to amNY.com.