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Jets rookie class exceeding expectations through 5 weeks

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Jets rookie running back Breece Hall, seen here carrying the ball down to the 1-yard line against the Miami Dolphins, is among the team's stellar haul of rookies this year.
Jets rookie running back Breece Hall, seen here carrying the ball down to the 1-yard line against the Miami Dolphins, is among the team’s stellar haul of rookies this year.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

The Jets moved to a winning 3–2 record on Sunday after topping the Miami Dolphins, and their unexpected success has been largely buoyed by their tremendous class of rookies from the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Gang Green made seven selections last April, all of which came in the first four rounds of the seven-round draft — and general manager Joe Douglas is certainly feeling pretty good about how his picks have fared thus far. 

Beginning with the fourth-overall selection, the Jets drafted cornerback Sauce Gardner to shore up their secondary. While cornerbacks usually take a while to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, Gardner has been outstandings since the beginning of the season.

With few exceptions, while still learning the playbook and learning his role on the defense, Gardner has shut down opposing wide receivers. During Sunday’s win against the Dolphins, Gardner picked off one pass, and Miami quarterbacks recorded just a 34.2 passer rating when throwing to Gardner’s man — meaning they would have seen a better passer rating if they had simply thrown the ball out of bounds every time they dropped back. Tyreek Hill, one of the most explosive wide receivers in the game, saw just two catches for 13 yards and no scores, after a long day of Gardner guarding him. 

Throughout the season, he’s recorded 20 tackles, which is unusually high for a cornerback. 

Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates with teammates after intercepting the ball against the Miami Dolphins.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates with teammates after intercepting the ball against the Miami Dolphins.AP Photo/Adam Hunger

After Gardner, the team selected wide receiver Garett Wilson with the 10th overall pick.

While Wilson has struggled since the return of quarterback Zach Wilson, the rookie wideout proved in his first three games that he has all the potential to be a dominant pass catcher in the NFL. He has recorded 71.3 yards per game and two touchdowns while catching passes from Joe Flacco — including a game-winning grab in Week 2 against the Browns. 

Once he and Zach Wilson can develop the chemistry they lost when the quarterback went down with injury in preseason, there is little question that Garett Wilson will be a stud in the pros. 

Later in the first round, the team drafted defensive end Jermaine Johnson out of Florida State. While he missed Sunday’s game against Miami, he has been a solid addition to the defensive line this season. 

Johnson has recorded 12 tackles (including two tackles for a loss), 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits. He needs to work on his technique, rather than use his physicality on every play — but he has been a huge boost, and should remain a solid option in the NFL for years to come.

Perhaps the most exciting player the Jets drafted in 2022 was running back Breece Hall. Drafted in the second round, Hall was the first rusher off the board, and came into the league with sky-high expectations. 

Fans were frustrated with his lack of production early on, but he put all of those concerns to rest on Sunday — running for 97 yards, and receiving for 100 more yards, while recording one touchdown. He almost certainly could have recorded another two scores, but running back Michael Hall entered the game in the red zone and snagged those rushes away from Hall. 

Those four elite rookies, along with tight end Jeremy Ruckert, offensive tackle Max Mitchell, and defensive end Micheal Clemons, have made this draft class a stellar haul for the Jets, and have made an immediate impact on the team. 

Things are looking up at MetLife Stadium, and the credit certainly goes to Joe Douglas for leading a terrific (and uncharacteristic) draft for Gang Green.

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

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