Sauce Gardner, Antonio Cromartie, NY Jets
Sauce Gardner, Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

While Sauce Gardner has received comparisons to Darrelle Revis, it’s Antonio Cromartie who may be his true player comparison

When thinking of the New York Jets and cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis is the household name that comes to mind. While comparisons between the two came quick, it’s another Jets corner that Sauce Gardner reminds me of most. That man is Antonio Cromartie.

Like Gardner, Cromartie was a first-round pick. Cro was selected by the then-San Diego Chargers in the 2006 NFL draft. Gardner and Cromartie also have similar athletic profiles, each boasting a combination of length and speed.

The two play the position with such similarity that Gardner could be mistaken as his clone. Tell me this scouting report doesn’t sound familiar.

So what does that mean in terms of expectations going forward?

Antonio Cromartie was your quintessential cornerback – excellent coverage skills, a gambler who will try to make the big play – but he had some issues as a tackler and was often beat by some of the league’s better route-running receivers. If you watch Sauce Gardner’s college tape, you’ll see much of the same. There’s good and bad to that.

The Good

We saw Cromartie’s ceiling early in his career when he was named an All-Pro in 2007 with his 10-INT season. That year earned him some DPOY votes and a trip to the Pro Bowl as well.

In many instances, you can see that potential in Gardner. Our own Joe Blewett did a great job breaking down the elite traits that are seen in Gardner’s tape.

That ceiling is what the Jets expect of Gardner going forward. Already, Gardner is doing the right things to improve his play; trying to limit potential future penalties and increase his success rate against WRs when the games matter. Considering he had a tendency to be “grabby” in college, this is a big step in the right direction.

Like Cromartie, Gardner’s elite speed and above-average height will keep him in more plays than not. If the front seven can do their job, Gardner will have plenty of opportunities to make plays.

In coverage, both players are able to effectively work their zone and make the right read, which can result in game-changing plays for their team.

On top of that, Gardner and Cromartie both excelled at stopping 9 routes and their variations. Both players also use the boundary to their advantage and can force receivers out of the play. Here’s a great example of that in a Gardner rep against Jameson Williams.

Underdog Jets Podcast, Wayne Chrebet Meet & Greet

The Bad

While Cro had other Pro Bowl seasons, he never came close to that 2007 production again.

Four Pro Bowl seasons is nothing to laugh at, but for a fourth overall pick like Sauce Gardner, expectations are to be much higher. Looking at the tape, there’s concern that Gardner could follow that “good but not great” type of career.

Gardner’s lockdown coverage ability has been lauded, but there’s plenty he will need to work on at the next level. One of the things he can improve is his press coverage against quicker receivers.

When looking at the tape, Gardner excels at stopping slower WRs off the line but has some difficulty hindering WRs with a first quick step, especially if that step is to the inside. His game against Memphis’s Calvin Austin in 2020 is a glaring example of that. This is just one clip, but there are many examples of this when looking at his tape.

It’s no question that Gardner has elite speed, but his inability to deter quick-burst WRs may give him problems with the elite route runners of the league.

An example of what I expect from Gardner against elite WRs is Cromartie’s 2010 game film against the Bengals and Chad Ochocinco. If you recall, Cro had an interception in that game. What is forgotten is the no-call touchdown by Ochocinco and the success he had against Cro otherwise; in what was a horrific display of quarterbacking by Carson Palmer.

The other negative trait that poses a resemblance to Cromartie is Gardner’s inconsistency in the tackling department. Sure, his highlights are nice, but the reality is a stark contrast. Gardner will whiff on a tackle every once in a while. However, this is much less of a problem than other things and can be coached.

The Verdict

Since 1997, only 11 cornerbacks have been selected in the top 5 of the NFL draft. This past season, Sauce Gardner and Houston’s Derek Stingley became the latest additions to that list.

The success rate for top-5 cornerbacks tends to be extremely high. Among the nine cornerbacks who were drafted top-5 from 1997 to 2021, seven of them went on to have strong careers. Detroit’s Jeff Okudah (selected third in 2020) is still a “TBD”.

While it’s highly unlikely Gardner will become a bust, his career outlook trends more towards the direction of Antonio Cromartie than the likes of Darrelle Revis.

As a player who was selected with such premium draft capital, being a CB2-level player for the entirety of his career won’t cut it. And unlike Cromartie, Gardner will likely be thrown to the wolves starting Week 1 of his rookie season.

The Jets will learn quickly if Sauce is legit.

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

Download Jet X Mobile on the App Store and Google Play.

Want More NY Jets News & Jets X-Factor Content?

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Google/Android (Google Play) device.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed to stay up to date with the New York Jets.

Follow us on Twitter @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Join the official Jets Discord community to connect with likeminded fans.

Thomas Christopher is an avid sports fan, mixed martial artist, big fantasy football player and Rex Ryan stan. He's also one of Jets X-Factor's breaking news writers. Email: tpascar[at]yahoo.com

3
Comments

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Josh Carter
Member
Josh Carter

I think he’ll be more like Revis in prime starting year 1 or 2. I never seen a shutdown cb in college like him and that clip of Calvin Austin was literally the biggest play he gave up in his entire college career

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

Cro looked like he had an NFL body when he was in college. I think Sauce will get better with a year in an NFL weight room.

hh11212
Member
hh11212

This is a bad take, period. Sauce has very good stop start ability (Cro dod not). He mentioned Austin as the best WR he faced and that he went back to the lab and went against his team’s slot WR consistently in practice to work on defending shifty WR. If you watch 2021 tape you can not find all these instances you allude to. Sauce has very good acceleration out of breaks when mirroring WR (Cro did not). You can see his outstanding acceleration in the rare instances he is beaten off the line or downfield. These were the main… Read more »