How the Jets Brightened Their Future in 41 Minutes – New York Jets Blog


Florham Park, NJ – Minutes after being selected by the New York Jets, Gardner sauce He was doing a media interview backstage at the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Garrett Wilson He took to the stage for a welcome hug to the league from Commissioner Roger Goodell. Wilson was wearing a Gates hat, just as he was.


“Oh, yeah, that would be crazy,” said Gardner to himself, imagining the future.

Gardner was drafted fourth overall at 8:34 PM ET on April 28. At 9:15 p.m., Wilson was named with the tenth pick.

Just like that, the Jets added two former college stars who would go on to become the most dynamic players on their team—a 6-foot-3 cornerback in Gardner who covers like a parachute insurance policy and a wide receiver who could better separate church and state. Franchises can go on for years without finding a single impact starter; The planes found two within 41 minutes.

While their season has fallen apart in recent weeks — they lost three straight games in Thursday night’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video) — the Jets (7-7) can take solace in knowing that they They hit the daily double in the draft.

Wilson and Gardner are favored to win the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards, respectively, which means they can join the New Orleans Saints on a comeback. Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshawn Latimore as the only team members since the 1970 merger to win awards in the same year. They did it in 2017.

“If you told me in 15 years that Garrett was the greatest Jets receiver ever and that Sauce was in the conversation for being better than [Darrelle] Going back to the best player in Jets history, I’m going to say, “Yeah, you’re probably right,” Jets said defensively. Sheldon Rankins, a former classmate of Camara and Latimore. “You see the talent. You see the mindset.”

what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas for long. Gardner, Wilson and the defensive end Jermaine Johnson Drafted later in the first round He was escorted by the Jets that night to New Jersey. They flew on a private jet, three rookies above the clouds in more ways than one.

They cut it out for a while, recounting their introductory experiences and discussing the great things they would do together. There was some turbulence and no food on the plane, recalls Wilson, who was so tired he put on a sleeping mask for the first time in his life and passed out until they landed at 5 am. It was an exhausting night of intense emotions.

“At the moment, it felt like a dream come true — a movie,” said Gardner. “Imagine: I just heard your name called and your family, they are proud and happy. Then you get on a private jet to start the next chapter in your life. It felt like a movie.”

A blockbuster, as it turned out.

With the exception of some early training camp struggles by Wilson, the two rookie teams made remarkably smooth transitions into the NFL. Wilson leads all rookies in receptions (67) and receiving yards (966). Gardner allowed a completion percentage of just 47% as the closest defender, second only to the Philadelphia Eagles James Bradbury Among cornerbacks with at least 400 coverage snaps, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Barring an injury, Wilson will be the first 1,000-yard receiver since 2015, when Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both reached the milestone. Gardner is the first cornerback since Revis, circa 2010.

“You have a guy like Sauce, who cherishes these moments to take on guys like Justin Jefferson And the [Stefon] Diggs and Terek Hill And the Ja’Marr Chase And all the different people who he is DJ Reid “We had to play,” coach Robert Saleh said, and then Garrett Wilson said [he’s] Just boom. If you ask him, we should throw the ball 90 times in a game. You want players who want the ball in the biggest moments.”

On Wednesday night, Gardner became the first Jets rookie since safety Eric McMillan in 1988 to be selected to the Pro Bowl, an impressive feat for a series known for its spotty drafting history. A few days before the announcement, Gardner catches his 34-year drought. Asked how he would feel ending it, he told ESPN, “Oh my God, that would be crazy.”

Then smile.

“I always say I want to make history,” he said. “This is always going through my head. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m always trying to make history.”

At Cincinnati, Gardner’s goal was to become the highest drafted player in program history. He checked this box. He wasn’t given a starting job when he got to the Jets – remember that bogus competition in training camp Bryce Hall? – but that didn’t stop him from thinking big. One of his targets is Defensive Rookie of the Year.

“Of course it would mean a lot,” he said. “We grew up with a lot of things we want to achieve, goals and aspirations, but when we are in the moment, we mainly think about winning. Winning games is more important than anything and anything. But, of course, it would be great to make that happen.” .

Gardner has climbed to the point where he’s not much tested by opposing teams—a rare air for a rookie. He wasn’t targeted on one of 38 coverage snaps taken last Sunday by the Detroit Lions, according to NFL Next Gen Stats — tied for the fourth-most goalless coverage shots from an outside corner since 2017.

Speaking to friends in Detroit, where he grew up, Gardner trashed the eve of the game, predicting a pick six. He was amazed he didn’t stand a chance, saying, “I kind of took it personally, because I wanted to make a bigger and better impact on the game.”

Its impact was subtle, but still profound. Basically, he eliminated half of the field from the Lions.

Gardner is not interested in the eye-catching stats and metrics that illustrate his early ability. He cares about one thing: “I don’t know much about numbers. I just want to control who lines up in front of me.”

Wilson developed the same mindset at his position, starting his sophomore year at Ohio State. Video studied Jefferson, the star receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, identifying one of his role models for the wide receiver.

“I watched him as a rookie and said, ‘I want to be like him,'” Wilson told ESPN. “I want to play like him and have an impact on the game like he does. … You want to chase the best. He was the best in the position. Hopefully, at some point, I can get up there.”

With Jefferson watching, Wilson exploded for eight catches and 162 yards against the Vikings on December 4. During a post-game hug, Jefferson told Wilson it was “fun to watch”.

Wilson makes this look easy. He’s reached 95 yards in five games, and is one of only 10 players — and the only rookie — who can claim that this season. He already holds the franchise record for catches and yards by a rookie, surpassing Wayne Schreibet (66 in 1995) and Keeshawn Johnson (844 in 1996).

Unbeknownst to many, Wilson experienced an acute, albeit brief, period of growing pains in the summer. There were dropped passes, plays he didn’t make. It just threw him into a bit of a funk.

“It really hit me,” he said.

By the start of the season, he was wowing his teammates with his way of running, body control and an uncanny ability to break away from defenders at the top of his path. “Music like college and cuts – it’s exciting to see,” the linebacker said CJ Mosley He said of Wilson’s movements.

Wilson has been a factor in almost every game since catching up in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns. Not even a subtle change of position—a slot for splitting the tip (X position)—had impeded its progress. He has produced 433 yards over the past four weeks, second only to Jefferson (530).

Is this problem dropped? Wilson has only four, and none in his last eight games.

One area he needs to check is his show of frustration on the field. It happened again last Sunday, as he threw his arms up after a wrong pass Zack Wilson – Not a good visual. Then, Wilson sought out the quarterback and gave him a long hug on the sideline. He is learning.

This passion and vanity is part of his DNA. As Wilson explained, “I want everyone to say, ‘Well, this guy loves to play football. ‘” Gardner plays the same way. Around the locker room, they display the same cool vibe, according to their teammates. In New Orleans, Rankins saw the same traits from Kamara and Latimore when they were rookies.

“There wasn’t a moment when either of these guys was surprised,” Rankins said. “They never looked across the opposite line and said, ‘Oh, my God, this Julius Jones! Alvin was never, “Oh, my God, this is Luke Koechly!” For them, there was no moment that would deny them the chance to be great. You see the same thing with sauce and garrett.”

A franchise with a long history of blunders in 2022, with Gardner, Wilson, and others. For years, the Jets lacked star power, high profile players with competitive charisma. Gardner and Wilson may fill the void.

“They’ll carry the torch from us big boys,” Mosley said. “They are the future.”

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