Jets’ secondary looking to match impressive expectations after 2022 dominance

Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner celebrates a defensive stop against the Seahawks.
Sauce Gardner
AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

FLORHAM PARK — There were few secondaries in football that dominated games as consistently as the New York Jets did in 2022. Behind the reigning defensive rookie of the year in Sauce Gardner and fellow lockdown corner DJ Reed, New York’s secondary has become one of the most feared units in football.

“The way they work, it couldn’t be any better…In my 20+ years in this league, I’ve just never seen a collective group so committed to the process and it’s really cool to be around,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Wednesday following practice. 

Coaching a unit as talented as the Jets have can be seen as both easy and a challenge – how can a group that finished in the top-5 last season get better? For a coach like Ulbrich though, improvements can be found everywhere, even within a player like Gardner. 

“The big challenge that has been laid to him (Gardner) is the ability to get the ball. Obviously led the league in passes defended. But that’s the next step for him to become the great corner he can be,” Ulbrich explained. 

Ulbrich’s other challenge is making sure the defense as a whole continues to improve following a top-five finish last season in which they made some of the great quarterbacks in the game look mediocre at times. The majority of that praise goes to the second though and the budding corner-back duo being worked on now. Of course, a secondary isn’t made solely because of the cornerbacks on the roster. In Ulbrich’s defensive scheme, New York needs to have athletic and intelligent safeties to protect the corners when they get in trouble. While LeMarcus Joyner is no longer with the team, Gang Green did bring in former Raven Chuck Clark to fit that hole. 

It appears he’s been a resounding success so far working with Jordan Whitehead. 

“Their relationship out here has been exceptional. You can see Chuck, there’s a reason he’s played such consistent football for such a long time. He really pushes Jordan in that way, and I’m excited about (the safety group),” Ulbrich added. 

Having a strong relationship is key in the secondary because communication is vital for each position. A lack of it could bring disaster for an entire defense. But when done properly, it can win games for the team. There may not have been a more complete unit with that mindset last season than the Jets. 

And through two weeks at OTAs, it appears that the group is already showing signs that they are prepared to continue that level of dominance that the Jets need them to match from last season. 

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