The 2022 New York Jets consisted of some of the best talent that this football team has had in quite some time. Multiple players played at an elite level, earning recognition through various honors. This Jets team features four Pro-Bowlers (and three alternates). For the first time since 2019, the Jets will be represented in the event. The Jets also have two first-team All-Pros and a second-team All-Pro.
In this team award piece, 10 were given out to eight different players. As one would expect, a good chunk of the Jets’ terrific fourth-ranked defense will be highlighted. Let’s take a look at which players deserved awards for their strong play this year.
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New York Jets 2022 End of the Year Awards:
Comeback Player of the Year: Sheldon Rankins
When determining who should earn comeback player of the year for the 2022 Jets, no one was more deserving than defensive tackle, Sheldon Rankins.
This past season was the second Rankins spent with the Jets. In 2021, Rankins got off to a fast start but struggled throughout the second half of the year. There was much speculation last off-season regarding his status with the team for 2022.
Even with an easy out in his contract coming off a disappointing year, the Jets held on to Rankins, and he delivered for Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh in a big way. Rankins concluded 2022 with three sacks, seven quarterback hits, four tackles for loss, 43 tackles (25 solo), and a forced fumble.
Rankins made a fairly constant impact week-to-week as a key run defender for the Jets along the interior of the lineup front. He was a great complementary asset to Quinnen Williams in his breakout year. Together, the two formed one of the best defensive tackle tandems in football this year.
Rankins had a very strong season for the Jets. He is a core leader in the locker room and is very respected. Free agency does now loom for Rankins, and it will be interesting to see if the Jets are able to retain him. Either way, he was the Jets’ comeback player of the year for his quality rebound this last season.
Best Free Agent Signing: DJ Reed
Absolutely no surprise here. And forget just 2022, DJ Reed might just be the Jets’ best free agent signing in a very long time.
Reed came in for the Jets in his first year, and despite not receiving the recognition, the truth is, he played at an All-Pro level. Whether it was shutting down premier wide receivers in coverage, showing off his ball skills, or displaying his physicality as a tackler, Reed did it all.
For starters, he did not miss a snap all year for the Jets’ defense. He played not only all 17 games but 100% of the snaps, 1,136 in total. From there, Reed racked up an impressive 80 tackles (63 solo, one tackle for loss). Reed compiled 12 passes defended with three in two games (Denver and Detroit). From a turnover standpoint, Reed had one interception and a forced fumble.
Reed only turned 26 in November, is under contract for the next two years, and should just be hitting his prime with the Jets. He consistently played great ball the entire 2022 season and easily takes this award as the Jets’ best free agent signing.
Most Underrated: Michael Carter II
Naturally, playing at a position with Reed and Sauce Gardner, Michael Carter II flies under the radar. But the second-year player established himself as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL this season and deserves more notoriety.
The Jets selected Carter in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft. He came in that year and started right away at a tough position in the slot for the Jets’ defense. Not only did he play from the jump, but Carter showed loads of promise. He has speed, intelligence, and, as a rookie, displayed ability in coverage, as a tackler, and a pass rusher. The key for him in year two was improved ball production.
Carter went on to convincingly show progress. After a rookie year that featured five passes defended and no interceptions, Carter recorded two interceptions, and nine passes defended in 2022.
He was available for this team in all 17 games (732 snaps) and contributed in multiple ways. Whether it be his coverage, ball production, or fitting the run, Carter was a key cog to the Jets’ fourth-ranked defense.
The slot cornerback position is one of the toughest in football to play. Carter has come in and, in two years, played well. In 2022, he was one of the best slot cornerbacks in football and just gets overlooked with two All-Pro caliber cornerbacks in Gardner and Reed playing alongside him. Carter completed this cornerback trio, playing a pivotal part in it being one of the best in football. He was the Jets’ most underrated player in 2022 and should only keep improving in year three.
Most Improved: Quincy Williams
The Jets claimed Quincy Williams through waivers in September of 2021, shortly before the start of the regular season. That year, he went on to flash his incredible potential with special traits like his speed and tackling power. However, Williams had very inconsistent moments in large part due to poor pursuit angles and some missed tackles. Overall, in 2021, Williams was a high-variance player for the Jets’ defense.
Then, come this year, Williams exploded. His natural ability remained on display, and most importantly, he worked to cut the mental mistakes drastically. That’s not to say they entirely went away, there were still a few instances where his instincts and angles were off, and a couple of tackles were missed. However, the progress made in those regards was tremendous.
Williams’ speed, physicality, and, as much as anything, effort all played an integral role in the Jets’ defensive success. He made a massive leap in 2022, finishing with 106 tackles (74 solo, 12 tackles for loss), three sacks, and six quarterback hits.
Williams enjoyed a wonderful second year with the Jets and is deserving of the most improved player. Now a free agent, still only 26, it will be fascinating to see if the Jets re-sign him.
Breakout Player: Bryce Huff
Bryce Huff took a huge leap in his third year carving out one important role rushing the passer. He was first added by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Huff showed immediate glimpses of his pass-rushing potential in his first two years (23 total games), tallying up two sacks each season.
For some reason, he started on the inactive list on gameday in each of the first three weeks of the season. When he finally got his opportunity in Week 4, Huff ran with it.
He finished the year only playing 191 snaps (13.6 per game) but picked up an impressive 36 pressures and 3.5 sacks. Huff had a huge third down, two-minute, and any other obvious passing down role up front for the Jets’ defense.
In 2022, Huff gained some recognition, and rightfully so, for what he was doing as a pass rusher. He averaged 2.6 pressures a game despite only getting 13.6 snaps on average. Huff only turns 25 this offseason and should just keep building. He was a huge breakout player for the Jets in 2022.
Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year: Sauce Gardner
Two awards in one here for Gardner. He came in for the Jets and had a generational type of rookie year from the jump, earning Pro Bowl honors and, for the first time in 41 years for a rookie corner, first-team All-Pro.
He was tested against top-flight wide receivers most weeks and shut them all down. Gardner wrapped up year one with 20 passes defended, which led the NFL. He played all 17 games for the Jets, wrapping up 75 tackles (51 solo, three tackles for loss) and had two interceptions.
Whether it was Gardner’s height and length physically, speed and quick-twitch athletically, or mentally, his confidence and poise at the catch-point, his complete skill set was well on display. Gardner, with his intangibles, played a vital role in beginning the culture change for the Jets, getting rid of the “Same old Jets” narrative.
In just one year, Gardner solidified himself as one of, if not to some, the best cornerback in the National Football League. He had a special start to his young career and will be a core player to the Jets franchise for many years to come. Gardner earned both the defensive rookie and player of the year for the Jets with his play.
Offensive Rookie and Player of the Year: Garrett Wilson
Another rookie earning two awards. Along with Gardner, Garrett Wilson had one unbelievable start to his Jets career. After the unfortunate season-ending injuries to another rookie, Breece Hall, and Alijah Vera-Tucker, Wilson was essentially the Jets’ only source of offense.
The wide receiver played in all 17 games and recorded 83 catches, 1,103 yards (13.3 per rec.), and had four touchdowns. Wilson had five double-digit target games (14 or more three times). He eclipsed 90 receiving yards in six games and, in three of them, went over 100.
Wilson provided Jets fans with loads of enjoyment with his quickness as both a route runner and after the catch. His catch radius and ability to adjust his body to the football were on display, reeling in tough grabs. He also showed his versatility as Wilson made things happen in both the slot and outside.
Wilson should be in the conversation as one of the best wide receivers in the league as early as next year. He had a thrilling start with the Jets in 2022, and Wilson is deserving of both the offensive player and rookie of the year.
MVP: Quinnen Williams
Quinnen Williams was one of the best players in the NFL this season. He concluded year four with the Jets posting 12 sacks, 28 quarterback hits, and 31 hurries, leading to a total of 71 pressures. Williams played in 16 games, so on average, he was getting 4.4 pressures per game. Complete dominance.
His elite-level play earned him the Jets Curtis Martin Team MVP Award. He also received Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro accolades.
Whether it was rushing the passer or stopping the run, Williams did not just beef up the stat sheet, but his impact was always felt. He was arguably the best defensive tackle in football for the 2022 season.
He recently turned 25 years old and should only be hitting his best seasons in the near future. Williams is eligible for a second contract, which he expects early this offseason, and should get it. He was the Jets’ best player this year.