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PFF ranks NY Jets position group as best in the NFL

Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Head Coach, HC
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

Is this New York Jets position group the league’s best?

It’s been arguably over a decade since the New York Jets had a position group that had an argument to be ranked as the NFL’s best. Back when the brash attitude of Rex Ryan roamed MetLife Stadium, the Jets had an elite offensive line and multiple defensive positions that could make a case.

The Jets finally boast a top-ranked position group once more. Heading into 2024, Pro Football Focus has listed the Jets’ cornerback group as the best in the entire NFL.

Sauce Gardner

Gang Green’s cornerbacks are led by 2022 first-round pick Sauce Gardner. In his short career, the Cincinnati product has been named Defensive Rookie of the Year while earning two first-team All-Pro appearances and two Pro Bowl appearances.

Gardner has been an elite presence on the Jets defense. After not allowing a single touchdown during his college career, Gardner has given up just two touchdowns in the NFL. He finished first and second among cornerbacks in PFF’s coverage grade in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Simply put, Gardner has been elite – and on the path to a Hall of Fame career.

However, Gardner isn’t the only elite cornerback on the Jets.

Michael Carter II

When he was first drafted, Michael Carter II was little more than a meme to most Jets fans due to UNC running back Michael Carter being selected before him in the 2021 NFL draft. The running back was selected with the second pick in the fourth round, while “MC2” was taken one round later. Yet, it’s the “second” Michael Carter who’s made an incredible impact in the NFL.

Carter’s 83.3 coverage grade ranked seventh among cornerbacks last season, while his 8.1 yards allowed per reception placed him eighth among his peers. Like Gardner, Carter has shown impeccable man coverage skills that have made him one of the best cover corners in the NFL.

To many Jets fans, Carter has been a pleasant surprise. Far gone are the days when Buster Skrine was the team’s best nickelback option, and thankfully so. Carter has shown a great nose for the ball with sticky coverage, and shows incredible instincts in the running game. And while the general NFL world is still lacking in recognizing his elite talent, Jets fans know they have something special.

He was also robbed of a pick-six against the New England Patriots on a questionable roughing the passer call in 2022, but I digress.

D.J. Reed

The last man in this incredible cornerback trio wasn’t drafted by the Jets. However, his signing showed great prowess by general manager Joe Douglas. Former Seattle Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed signed with the Jets in 2022 to a three-year, $33 million contract. This was a universally loved move, and so far it’s paid dividends.

Like the aforementioned cornerbacks, Reed has also proven to be an elite playmaker. In his first year with the Jets, Reed was playing at a similar level to Gardner, allowing an incredible 0.8 yards per snap allowed heading into the final weeks of the 2022 season.

Reed has graded as a top 20 cornerback by PFF for the last two seasons, and will try to make it a third as he heads into the final year of his contract with the Jets. He’s shown to be an elite zone coverage cornerback during his time with the team, and he doesn’t slack in man coverage, either.

For the first time in a long time, it seems like the Jets are receiving respect from the media. Some of that may be the Aaron Rodgers effect. On the other hand, the stats (and tape) don’t lie.

At the same time, there’s now a tremendous amount of pressure for this unit to perform well in 2024. With a schedule that may be tougher than it appears, the lights are going to be shining brightly on Gardner and the rest of the Jets secondary this upcoming season. Time will tell if they’ll be able to live up to the task of performing at an elite level once again.

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