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Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner Prove Jets’ Future Is Bright

  • Justin Melo
  • February 10, 2023
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The NFL held its 2022 Honors event on Thursday. Annual award winners were revealed, as was the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. The New York Jets were big winners, with cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson capturing Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The future is extremely bright in New York.

Gardner bested the competition, which included Aidan Hutchinson and Tariq Woolen, by a wide margin. Gardner earned 46 first-place votes. Gardner was the rightful winner.

The 6-foot-3 Gardner possessed the size and length to battle elite boundary receivers. With Gardner’s make-up speed and incredible ball skills, he was able to immediately develop into a shutdown cornerback. Gardner’s traits were on display from Week 1 and throughout the entire 2022 Jets season.

The No. 4 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Gardner led all NFL defenders with 20 pass breakups. The former Cincinnati standout also generated two interceptions and totaled 75 tackles. Gardner was credited with allowing two touchdowns, per Next Gen Stats. Gardner finished his rookie season having allowed just 34 receptions on 74 targets, good for a completion percentage allowed of just 45.9%, via Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks saw a passer rating of 53.9 when throwing in Gardner’s direction.

Wilson wasn’t to be outdone on the other side of the ball for the Jets.

Wilson edged out Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. It’s worth acknowledging the vote that was closer than Sauce’s triumph (156-129 vote in favor of Wilson). San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy finished third in voting.

Wilson led all rookie pass-catchers in receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,103) despite being forced to play alongside four different quarterbacks in East Rutherford. Wilson added four touchdown receptions. Wilson wasn’t just good by rookie standards. He finished 15th across the league in receiving yards. 

Wilson was a menace both pre-and-post catch. Wilson led all rookies with 411 yards after the catch in 2022, per Next Gen Stats. Wilson averaged 4.7 yards per catch after reception and forced a total of 22 missed tackles, per PFF. Wilson ranked second in missed tackles forced, behind only the dual-threat Deebo Samuel.

The first-year outputs of Gardner and Wilson — not to mention fellow rookie running back Breece Hall— hang a banner of optimism in Gang Green Nation. Jets general manager Joe Douglas is now tasked with completing the Jets’ roster by acquiring the most difficult piece of all: a starting-caliber quarterback. That’s what’s currently lacking in East Rutherford.

Douglas is expected to move on from Zach Wilson this offseason. Wilson’s two-year tenure in New York has been marred by inconsistent play, recurring injuries, and off-field maturity issues. The Jets have already been tied to Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers, although the latter of which is strongly being linked with a trade to the New Orleans Saints. The Jets did hire Rodgers’ ex-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to oversee their offense. Jimmy Garoppolo, who is familiar with head coach Robert Saleh, is an alternative option in free agency.

The Jets possess ascending superstars on offense and defense. Thursday’s NFL Honors reinforced what we saw from Wilson and Gardner all season long. The Jets must now complete the rebuild by landing a legitimate franchise quarterback.

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Justin Melo