Sauce Gardner, Justin Jefferson, NY Jets, Vikings
Sauce Gardner, Justin Jefferson, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Are Gardner and Jefferson the top players at their respective positions?

New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner has already been through a gauntlet of opposing wide receivers. Just 11 games in, the rookie’s resume includes standout performances against players like Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs.

But this week’s test might be his greatest challenge of the season.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has a strong case to be the best wide receiver in football. Jefferson leads the NFL with 4,248 receiving yards since he entered the league in 2020. He is the only player over the 4,000-yard mark across that span.

This season, Jefferson’s total of 1,232 receiving yards sits only one yard behind Tyreek Hill for the league lead. But Jefferson is doing it as the sole elite-level threat in his team’s passing game. Hill has the benefit of Jaylen Waddle beside him. Jefferson is responsible for an NFL-high 46.5% of his team’s passing yards, which is absurd. Hill’s second-ranked mark is way down at 38.4%.

Most signs point to Jefferson being the NFL’s WR1 at the moment. That means if Gardner is the league’s best cornerback, then we are arguably in for a matchup between the league’s best wideout and the league’s best corner.

So… is Gardner really the NFL’s best cornerback?

There is plenty of evidence suggesting that he is. Gardner leads all cornerbacks in passes defended (14) while allowing the second-lowest catch rate (43.4%) and the third-lowest passer rating (47.6) on throws into his direction. Gardner is also allowing the third-fewest yards per coverage snap (0.56). He is the only cornerback ranked top-three in all four of those categories.

Considering the facts at our disposal, I would say the answer is yes: Sauce Gardner vs. Justin Jefferson is a matchup between the NFL’s top cornerback and the NFL’s top wide receiver.

Get your popcorn ready.

We break down Sauce-vs.-Jefferson and the entire Jets-Vikings matchup on the newest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast.

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Jets71
Jets71
1 month ago

Great podcast! You guys do an excellent job How do I get the video version? And, where can I comment, or send any “mail bag” questions. I think you guys could do a mail segment regularly.

Ok, so with the Jefferson thing, I’m thinking they use more of an old Bill Sleazechick strategy and bracket JJ using Reed, and … pick a guy. Then Sauce can rotate between Hockenson, and Thielen. I’m not saying this is a “all day” thing, we will see some Sauce vs. JJ I’m sure but let’s be honest, the offense has all the advantages, as good as Sauce is, it could be a long day if he’s 1v1 with him every snap.

This game is more about the pass rush than Gardner/Jefferson. Saleh has always said, the DL is the only group that can take everybody away. They will be responsible for taking away Justin Jefferson.

Jets71
Jets71
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

cool …thanks. Yes I’d love to see Lawson have a break out game!