Sauce Gardner, NY Jets, NFL Draft
Sauce Gardner, New York Jets, Getty Images

What does Sauce Gardner bring to the New York Jets?

With their first selection in the 2022 NFL draft –  a crucial one for the franchise – the New York Jets selected ultra-talented cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner out of Cincinnati.

The 21-year-old Gardner was one of the few blue-chip, elite prospects in this class. He has all of the tools to become one of the best corners in the NFL.

The selection of Gardner completed an overhaul to the Jets’ cornerback group this offseason. With the selection of Gardner and the signing of D.J. Reed in free agency, the Jets now have two high-level starters at a premium position.

Here are some of the most important things for Jets fans to know about Gardner.

Pre-draft measurables and production

Gardner is about as tall and long as they come at the cornerback position, standing just under 6-foot-3 with 33 1/2″ arms. He has a huge 79 3/8″ wingspan with big 9 5/8″ hands. At 190 pounds, he is not necessarily the biggest but still plays extremely physical.

The 40-yard dash was the only aspect of athletic testing Gardner participated in. He ran well with a 4.41 time. Gardner had a 1.51 10-yard split and 2.56 20-yard split.

Gardner was extremely productive in college, not allowing a touchdown over 33 games throughout his three years at Cincinnati (2019-21). He totaled nine interceptions (three each season), 16 passes defended, and 5.5 tackles for loss in his career. Five of those tackles for loss came in 2021, including three sacks.

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Skill set

Gardner makes his presence felt with his leadership and confidence. He has the skill set to play in man coverage against top receivers.

Starting at the line of scrimmage, Gardner spent most of his time in press coverage at Cincinnati. He is extremely physical and efficient at using his hands in press, making the most of his unique length.

Gardner is a fluid mover with great athleticism. He can change direction very quickly for a taller corner and is capable of successfully covering routes either vertically or across the field laterally.

Gardner plays to his 4.41 speed as he does not give up big plays down the field. Throughout the route, Gardner remains physical.

Gardner is a physical, willing tackler who always plays with great effort. He will come up and play the run competitively to help make stops. He can also be deployed as a blitzer and make his impact felt (three sacks in 2021).

Projected role

Gardner will come in and be the Jets’ number one cornerback to start the 2022 season. He has the talent and mentality to hold his own and help the Jets defense from the jump. The unit needs more takeaways and Gardner can provide just that.

With D.J. Reed’s success on the right side, Gardner will likely be utilized as the left corner. Either way, Gardner will get significant playing time as a rookie.

Long-term potential

The hope with Gardner is that he becomes arguably the best cornerback in football down the road. His significant success throughout college gives him the potential to be an elite difference-maker.

Gardner has excellent physical traits and athletic ability to go with his younger age, which gives him plenty of room to get even better. He can also stand to get bigger as he ages, allowing him to play with more physicality.

His high floor already gives him top-10 cornerback potential within the next few years.

Off-field

Gardner has a strong reputation for his exceptional personality. At an early age of roughly six, he earned the nickname “Sauce” for his on-field dominance.

He possesses all of the intangibles to change the culture of the Jets organization. At Cincinnati, Gardner was thrust into a position to pick up his team as a core leader.

Gardner’s defensive coordinator, Mike Tressel had this to say about him prior to Cincinnati’s playoff game:

“Ahmad is the type of guy who, certainly, on the field, is locked in from start to finish but has the ability to keep the room loose, keep the defense loose, make sure we have fun as we’re preparing like professionals.”

Gardner spoke before the draft about his mindset toward changing the culture of a struggling team such as the Jets.

“If I go to a team that said ‘same old anything’, I’m going to change it. If they mean that in a bad way then I feel like I’m the change. I’m a person who’s going to do any and everything so we can win and turn the program around. That’s how I feel about it. I’m not going to come and get used to the norm.”

Off of the football field, Gardner seems motivated to make an impact in the local community, as he tweeted shortly after being drafted by the Jets.

Like most of the prospects Joe Douglas has drafted, Gardner has great character.

Overview

Overall, Gardner is the potential face-of-the-franchise type of prospect the Jets needed to get with the fourth overall pick. He has the ability to be one of the leading forces in bringing respect and credibility back to the Jets organization.

Gardner can be a vital, leading asset to Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defense. The Jets will hope that Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Michael Carter II can form the Jets’ long-term cornerback trio, as they are all 25 and under.

The floor and potential in future years with Gardner are great. His unique height, length, press-man coverage, athletic ability, and character give Gardner a great opportunity to be a Jet legend.

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Ryan Moran is a writer for Jets X-Factor providing in-depth analysis on all things related to the team. Email: ryan.moran310[at]gmail.com

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Richard Hausig
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Richard Hausig

Heard a lot of people say that JD and Salah value EDGE over CB in their defense and maybe they do. But Gardner is going to really help the pass rush too. If you can force the QB to hold the ball for that one extra beat you are going to turn pressures into sacks.

verge tibbs
Member
verge tibbs

Sauce’s og nickname as a kid was “A1 Sauce Sweet Feet Gardner”. Not sure when they shortened it to just Sauce.

Azuma76
Member
Azuma76

I got all of our draft picks right and Sauce was the key ingredient. When you can lockdown one side of the field with one player then the D line will have time to feast on whoever is throwing the ball. Wonderful player I see immediately in the pro bowl!

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

100% correct. He’s going to really help the pass rush by making the QB hold the ball longer. Hurries become Pressures and Pressures Sacks.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

Great Article! You mentioned he has potential to become the best CB in football. What do you see as the floor for Sauce based on the traits you mentioned? Thanks

hh11212
Member
hh11212

I agree I think top 10 is likely his floor. I legitimately believe he will be a top 3 CB for the majority of his career barring injury. He just has a skill set that comes along every 5 to 10 years. But his mindset is why I view him a perennial All-Pro, not just a Pro Bowler.