Ahmed ‘Sauce’ Gardner must earn starting cornerback spot, though it’s probably inevitable

Ahmed 'Sauce' Gardner must earn starting cornerback spot, though it's probably inevitable

The Jets will not hand the starting cornerback spot to Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner.

To flirt. To flirt.

According to Robert Saleh, although it is inevitable that the No. 4 overall pick out from Cincinnati will eventually begin, Gardner will have to earn an early corner spot in contrast to free agent takeover DJ Reed.

So far during the OTAs, third-year cornerback Bryce Hall has raised his flag with the opening defense.

“Bryce is awesome. I want to be clear, and I know, like you just said, fourth overall and I’m not trying to grab headlines, it probably will, he still has to earn it. Let Bryce start Gone, he’s taking a rep and it’s not for show. You have to earn the right to play football,” Saleh said. “Just because you were drafted at a certain place doesn’t mean anything Bryce is attacking every moment and he’s doing everything he can to keep himself right where he was. Brandin, obviously he’s tackling his shoulder, he looks fantastic, he’s past Bigger than the season. Excited to have him back in training camp so he can come in and compete. But at the same time, both have been amazing.”

And to Hall’s credit, he has produced some pass breakups and has good coverage against the starting receiver.

But when Garder is competing against Hall, much-talked-about word from the coaching staff and his teammates is gleaming around the corner.

“Ultra-competitive, lots of swag, tons of confidence. Plays with different urgency,” said Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbricht. “He’s a high cut guy, the tall guy, who you usually get into leg speed. Can’t find the change of direction, which it seems, and it’s quick, it looks like he has it. I’m excited about what that could be.”

Throughout the OTA practices available to the media, Gardner’s talent is evident.

The 6-foot-3 corner is a spacious presence that can engage receivers with enough quick twitchiness to move in and out of their back pedals with efficiency afterward.

There have been dramas in the practices when he hovers over the line of scuffle in press man coverage. And the ball breaks, he puts his hand into the body of the receiver and he completely obstructs the path to the wideout.

He showed those traits in some plays against Corey Davis, number 10 overall, Garrett Wilson, and undrafted free agent receiver Irwin Charles.

“He is what everyone says he is,” Reid said of the rookie cornerback. “Obviously he’s the prototype but he walks like a little guy. When he presses, he dominates the melee line. So I guess that’s what separates him and your average corner.”

Gardner also broke a couple pass guarding Davis and Wilson.

So for now, Saleh will continue to read the clichés about high draft picks earning his starting spot while Hall is running with starters. It is necessary to maintain the honor of the locker room and to perpetuate the ideology of the competitions.

But it’s inevitable that Garder will snatch the opening role.

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