Jets’ rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner is getting as much attention –and maybe even more – than Darrell Revis did in his rookie season.
Gardner will be under the microscope as well as the secondary. It’s no secret that the secondary is the key to the Jets’ defense this fall.
For the record, the Jets ranked 30th in passing yards with 4,409, and allowed 28 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 68.3%. They recorded seven interceptions.
Ouch! It wasn’t pretty and hasn’t been for the past few years.
There were some eyebrows raised when the Jets let safety and team leader Marcus Maye walk in free agency, but it did appear to be a stalemate between the sides.
GM Joe Douglas did his part by drafting Gardner and also acquiring veteran safety Jordan Whitehead, who plays the run as well as anyone in the league. Douglas made another clever move by bringing in ex-49er Marcell Harris who can play a safety and linebacker spot. Head coach Robert Saleh welcomed the move.
Speaking of Saleh, this is where his expertise should be helpful. Saleh was the architect behind the strong 49er defensive units, and he will need to have his hands on this one.
Fortunately for him, the Jets appear to have some depth at both the safety and corner.
Gardner is looming as a starter on opening day, and it will be determined by his play in the preseason. Veteran corner DJ Reed was acquired from Seattle, and he will hold down one corner. There also is rising star and third-year vet Bryce Hall, who was one of the more consistent players last year.
With Reed and Hall, the Jets don’t have to thrust Gardmer into a starting role. That will be an interesting call for Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
For once, though, the Jets have depth. Yes, there are some notable bodies in the secondary, and –barring injuries – a rookie doesn’t have to endure the rigors of a forced start.
Brandin Echols made his presence felt late last year in his rookie season, and fellow rookie Michael Carter II had his share of starts. Both could fit into a nickel or spot starter role.
Veteran safety Lamarcus Joyner missed all of last year with an injury, and third-year safety Ashtyn Davis is still in the mix despite not living up to his potential.
Will Parks, Javelin Guidry, and Justin Hardee will be battling for backup and special team roles.
The Jets have numbers, but do their numbers result in talent and cohesion? That’s the question that will be hanging over the secondary in camp.
Revis and Antonio Cromartie were one of the most dominant corner pairings in club history during the early and middle parts of the past decade. They have left a void that has far equaled their production.
It’s now time to see if the Jets have all the ingredients with their Sauce.