Every week this year, the two brought electricity as young 22-year-olds to this Jets football team that needed it. Neither one at any point ever hit the “rookie wall,” proving just how special they both are.
Their consistently strong play has had them both positioned well to be the NFL’s Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. In the final game of the season, even though the Jets as a team had nothing to play for, both Wilson and Gardner only helped their chances, giving the Jets possibly both the OROY and DROY.
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New York Jets WR Garrett Wilson, CB Sauce Gardner finish rookie seasons strong:
Despite the frustrating sixth-straight loss for the Jets yesterday to end the season, Wilson and Gardner, as per usual, were two of the Jets’ best players.
Starting with Wilson, it almost seems as if the goal was to only help his chances of winning the award. He saw 17 targets come his way. Wilson caught nine of them for 89 yards (9.9 yards per catch). His biggest play went for 36 yards as he made multiple defenders miss. He was essentially the only source of offense the Jets had yesterday afternoon.
Then, with Gardner, he had a prime challenge in the last game of his first year, competing against speedsters, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. He played a key role in slowing the arguably the best wide receiver duo in football to just seven catches on 10 targets for 67 yards with no reception longer than 15 yards. Gardner won his one-on-ones and even reached a point in the game where he clearly had Hill flustered.
Gardner ends the year with 20 passes defended, the most in the NFL, even as a first-year player. In 12 of 17 games, Gardner broke up a pass. He also concludes his rookie year with two interceptions.
The toughest competition for the award for Gardner will likely come from Aidan Hutchinson and Tariq Woolen. Hutchinson wrapped up his rookie year with 9.5 sacks. Woolen had 16 passes defended and six interceptions.
Undoubtedly two deserving candidates. But ultimately, Gardner has been in the driver’s seat as the favorite all along. And with his strong outing against Hill and Waddle yesterday certainly provided the voters one final reason why they should give it to him.
With Wilson, he finished his first year totaling 147 targets, 83 catches, 1,103 yards (13.3 yards per catch), four touchdowns, and a longest catch of 60 yards. Wilson recorded three 100-yard receiving days. He also had three other games over 90.
For Wilson, the stiffest competition will likely come from Kenneth Walker and former teammate Chris Olave. Late pushes were made by Brock Purdy, Kenny Pickett, and Christian Watson, but, only doing it in the second half of the year should make it harder for them to take it.
Walker eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards yesterday, helping the Seahawks get into the playoffs. He finished the regular season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Walker also had nine touchdowns on the ground. Olave surpassed 1,000 yards receiving yesterday as well. He recorded 72 catches on 119 targets and, similar to Wilson, had four touchdowns and three 100-yard receiving games.
In the end, what should give Wilson the advantage is that he totaled the most yards, with 1,103 to Walker’s 1,050 and Olave’s 1,042. It certainly will not be easy, but Wilson did more than enough to secure the award for himself.
Wilson finished 20th in the NFL with his 83 receptions. Even better, Wilson was 15th in football when it came to receiving yards. This production comes with inconsistent and, for the most part, way below-average quarterback play for most of the year.
In the end, for a franchise that has struggled to draft well for so long, like the Jets, it is beyond thrilling to come away with two players as special as Gardner and Wilson. It would be awesome if the two represented the Jets as the league’s Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year. Both Wilson and Gardner are more than deserving and give the Jets one promising future.