The New York Jets have a special young cornerback trio brewing

Ryan Moran
sauce gardner, new york jets
Oct 9, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) intercepts a pass intended for wide receiver River Cracraft (85) from quarterback Skylar Thompson (not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets have three young cornerbacks, all playing well for this defense. Cornerback is one of the most important positions in football and the Jets did a great job treating it as such.

Joining second-year slot cornerback Michael Carter II this offseason were rookie fourth-overall selection Sauce Gardner and 25-year-old DJ Reed on a three-year deal. Through five games, the three are playing at a high level, forming a respectable trio that could rank toward the top of football.

New York Jets’ strong CB trio of Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Michael Carter II:

Starting with the longest-tenured of the bunch, Carter, he had an encouraging rookie season last year. Carter will fly under the radar with Gardner being as well-known as he is and Reed signing with the Jets on a big contract. Carter has terrific speed, he can tackle, stop the run, and apply pressure on the quarterback.

The main area for him to prove growth in year two was ball production. Carter has made plays on the ball through five games. He recorded his first career interception in Week 4 and has recorded all three of his passes defended over the last two games. He will surpass his total of five pass breakups from a year ago pretty significantly. Carter is 23 and proving himself as a well-rounded player at a key position like slot cornerback.

Then, with Reed, the Jets’ first prime addition at corner this offseason, he has certainly played up to the deal signed. He has been a reliable tackler on the edge for the Jets. Reed has one interception, two passes defended, one forced fumble, and a tackle for loss in five games.

The Jets have whiffed badly on some of their recent free-agent signings, particularly at cornerback. Reed has come in and changed that narrative. He has been everything the Jets could have asked for. Reed has established himself as a team leader and a competitor for this defense.

Gardner, the Jets’ top draft pick, entered year one with lofty expectations and has possibly even surpassed what most could have anticipated to this point. He is gifted with special physical traits and athletic ability. Gardner is known for his competitiveness and has the off-field intangibles to help turn the Jets around.

In his first five NFL games, Gardner has had six passes defended, at least one in every game. Gardner recorded his first pro interception this last week. He has also proven his physicality around the line of scrimmage and in the backfield with both a tackle for loss and quarterback hit through five games.

Statistically, the three have contributed to the Jets’ impressive rankings in comparison to the league. The Jets’ pass defense currently ranks 10th in football. They have allowed 1,029 yards (205.8 per game).

The Jets have seven interceptions through five games, the cornerback trio is responsible for three of those. Last year, the Jets recorded a total of seven interceptions, showing some incredible progress. The Jets are tied for fourth in the NFL when it comes to interceptions in 2022.

To this point, the Jets’ defense overall ranks 10th in the league. Some remarkable growth from last year’s 32nd-ranked unit. These three corners of the Jets have a lot to do with the rapid progress.

All three players offer something unique. Gardner has all the tools physically and athletically while having an elite pedigree. Reed provides the experience to this group along with consistent tackling on the outside. Carter offers speed in the slot to go with the ability to play the run and apply pressure as a blitzer.

The sudden development of this defense speaks to the importance of the cornerback position. Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh deserve credit for building this trio. Considering their youth, Gardner only 22, Reed, 25, and Carter being 23, the great cornerback trio of the Jets looks to be set for years to come.