Ahmad Sauce Gardner, NFL Draft, New York Jets, Cornerback Depth Chart
Ahmad Gardner, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ cornerback overhaul is complete

With the selection of Ahmad Gardner at No. 4 in the 2022 NFL draft, the New York Jets added a little special “sauce” to complete the overhaul of their cornerback room.

When general manager Joe Douglas arrived to New York in 2019, the Jets were trotting out Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, and Bless Austin at cornerback. This group was a far cry from the glory days led by stars Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

The 2022 Jets cornerback room will be the franchise’s best unit on paper since Revis first left New York. Here is how the Jets’ current cornerback room stands:

When the third-best corner on your roster (Bryce Hall) is someone who ranked second in the NFL with 17 forced incompletions in 2021, you’re in a good place. Not to mention, Reed is the unit’s oldest player at only 25 years old.

The Jets have three starting quality outside cornerbacks

For weeks I have considered Gardner the best player in the draft. His combination of size, athleticism, and production makes him the best cornerback prospect since Jalen Ramsey in 2016.

I could go on for hours about all the reasons he will be great. In fact, Jets X-Factor’s Joe Blewett did exactly that in his thorough film breakdown of New York’s newest island.

D.J. Reed is no slouch in his own right. The 5-foot-9 corner plays with tenacity and physicality which reminds me of former star Brent Grimes. People may remember him better by his nickname “Optimus” Grime, a title he earned for this amazing interception while covering Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson.

Reed brings an elite resume in coverage that compares very well against several All-Pros in 2021 as Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania went into here.

Bryce Hall may be moved to the bench but that is not an indictment of his talent. Over his first 25 NFL games, Hall has consistently been the Jets’ best corner. Prior to a devastating injury in his final year of college, Hall was widely considered a first-round pick.

I went into detail here regarding Hall’s criticisms and why he is a long-term answer at cornerback. If he can work on getting his head around in coverage, those pass breakups will start becoming interceptions.

The Jets now have three quality outside corners to keep up in a pass-happy NFL. Behind them, the Jets have athletic and versatile depth with plenty of room to improve.

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Jets have young, athletic, and hungry depth at CB

After the top three players, the Jets have several young and fast corners.

Michael Carter II will likely have the biggest role as the Jets’ primary slot corner. Carter II shined at the start of his rookie year, standing out as one of the best rookie corners and statistically one of the better corners in the NFL.

While he started to struggle in the second half, Carter II already cemented himself as the favorite to start in the slot.

Brandin Echols is another young corner who played a key role in his rookie season. Echols immediately won the starting right-cornerback job and held onto it all season.

While Echols had some blown assignments he also flashed plenty of upside. In a Week 15 game against the Dolphins, Echols received a dominant 93.3 coverage grade at Pro Football Focus for recording a pick-six and two more pass breakups while allowing only one reception on four targets. He was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Week.

Echols has the potential to be a long-term player for the Jets. Among the 1,790 corners drafted from 1987 to 2021, Echols had the 154th-highest relative athletic score at 9.15. The Jets coaching staff has to be encouraged by the progress he showed through the season.

Isaiah Dunn and Javelin Guidry round out the cornerback room. The undrafted free agents were both expected to go late on day three in 2021 and 2020, respectively, but were quickly scooped Douglas following the draft.

Guidry impressed at the end of his rookie season. In limited playing time, Guidry held his own and earned the highest overall grade among 31 qualified rookie corners at 73.1. Most impressively he forced a ridiculous total of four fumbles which was tied for third in the NFL.

In his second season, Guidry had a slight drop-off but still made meaningful contributions.

Dunn, on the other hand, didn’t contribute much in his rookie season. Dunn had a promising start with two pass breakups on only four snaps in a game against the Titans but struggled as soon as his playing time increased later in the year. With the talent on the roster, Dunn needs a strong camp to make the roster in 2022.

The Jets’ corners have plenty of variety and speed

Douglas has always had a penchant for great athletes and that’s never more obvious than at cornerback. Five of the Jets’ top seven cornerbacks ran a sub-4.42s 40-yard dash.

The Jets also have plenty of variety at the position. Gardner and Hall have the size and length to thrive in press-man coverage, the coverage Saleh calls most often on third down.

Next, the Jets have four smaller and quicker corners in Reed, Echols, Carter II, and Guidry. Playing in a division with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Stefon Diggs, the Jets will need it.

It remains to be seen who will be starting in Week 1. Reed is the favorite opposite of Gardner but there is a chance he may move into the slot. The Jets could even rotate Carter II and Hall depending on the matchup. Echols has a high ceiling and the traits to thrive on the outside or in the slot. It’s anyone’s guess who will land where.

Regardless, the future is bright in the Jets’ secondary. It may be a few years late, but maybe New Jack City can finally earn that title.

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verge tibbs
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verge tibbs

Good stuff. I wanted hutch or sauce the whole time and had plenty of friendly discord about it, lol. If you can make a premium position deep and elite, gotta do it, especially with all the receivers in the afc and the East. So, not to be that guy…. and i love Hall.. but the 2nd round is a real sweet spot in this draft. I think jd can pull a 2nd from a cb needy team for him. Just saying, i think its possible. Knowing jd, he could probably get a 2023 with it too. I would add that… Read more »

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

Today is a day with a lot of conversations. CB needy teams ? Possibly 20. A lot of conversations. Hall is the most logical candidate, but he is not the only one. A second is steep , but Douglas is in control from today through October. The easier sell could be a third in 2022, with additional draft compensation in 2023. Seven CB’s listed, will the Jets carry 5 ?