Cornerback Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner and defensive end Jermaine Johnson have the talent to catapult the Jets’ defense from an NFL basement.
But head coach Robert Saleh understands that Gardner and Johnson are NFL infants and that rookie development varies. Some first-year players become Pro Bowl and All-Pro calibers in Year 1 while others make slow progress before becoming stars.
“I am not expecting anything from people except to step on the field and do my best. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true,” Saleh said on Friday, the first day of the Jets’ rookie minicamp. “Rookies, they cook their own food. They evolve and become competitive everywhere at different rates. some people like a [Bengals] Jamar Chase shows Dau 1, and they are who they are. And we got people who take three, four years. So, they are expected to hit the ground, lock in, do your best every day, imbibe whatever reps you are getting, learn from your mistakes and see how much better you can get. Huh. ,
Saleh isn’t predicting elite production from No. 4 and No. 26 overall in last week’s draft, but the pair do meet two differential requirements for the Jets.
Despite the growing pains, Gardner’s ability to thrive in press man coverage should help the Jets on the third down, the Jets cornerback struggling badly during last season’s 4-13 campaign.
And even though Gardner didn’t play much zone coverage in college in Cincinnati, Saleh doesn’t anticipate that his mental acumen is an issue for his rookie CB which translates well to zone coverage.
“You can see he’s an out-of-the-box thinker, you can see he has great vision on the field,” Saleh said. “He’s a tremendous communicator. He can diagnose a play before it ever snaps. Sauce has a tremendous mental makeup that allows him to see the game differently than most players.” .. The security of our zone from all corners is very easy. Just leave the people behind you.”
Gardner’s brilliance will elevate the Jets’ secondary game, but coverage is almost pointless without a pass rusher.
It was therefore necessary to improve the defensive line to include Johnson, who suffered injuries and failed to generate a rush of passes throughout the season as he finished with just 33 sacks.
But even without production in 2021, Johnson is still joining a talented defensive line that includes Quinnon Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins and Carl Lawson (who is returning from a torn Achilles).
Franklin-Myers and Williams produced solid seasons. And Lawson looked like the Jets’ best player, destroying offensive linemen in pass and run games throughout training camp, before his injury at the end of the season.
With Lawson returning with current talent, that group should be an easy transition for Johnson as he will be offered one more opportunity after another.
“So just that experienced presence for them will make it easier,” Saleh said. “Football is still a one-on-one game, it doesn’t matter if you have an all-star lineup, if you’re face-to-face and you can’t win, it doesn’t matter. So the presence of those guys.” It makes you even more face-to-face. It’s a matter of learning the game and understanding those one-on-one victories that will make a difference for him.”
Jets release polarizing guard Greg Van Roten
Greg Van Roten spent two years with the Jets and started 23 games after playing with the Panthers from 2017-2019 after signing a three-year deal for $10.5 million with a guarantee of $3.25 million in 2020.
Van Rotten started 13 games and was solid in his first year with the Jets, as he allowed only 27 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
But Van Rotten’s play fell dramatically in 2021.
Van Rotten started the year as a starter, but had problems with pass and run blocking, which led to moments when his struggles ruined aggressive drives. He started nine games and allowed 32 pressures with three sacks, according to the PFF.
A large section of the Jets fan base was angered by Van Rotten after the Week 3 press conference following the loss to the Broncos.
He outright criticized rookie Zack Wilson about his obstinacy to catch the ball, which led to unnecessary sacks. He believed Wilson needed to get rid of the ball instead of always fighting to survive every game because the NFL’s defenses were so good.
Van Rotten conceded that Wilson’s defense needed to improve on the offensive line and it started with him. But those comments angered the fan base.
Van Rotten continued to struggle on the field. And when the Jets traded former tight end Dan Brown to the Chiefs for offensive guard Laurent DuVernay-Tardiff on November 2, it was the beginning of Van Roten’s end. He was benched to Duvernay-Tardiff in the 11th week and only played in spot duty for an injured lineman in the Eagles and Jaguars matchup.
The Jets claimed a waiver Thursday to former backup Eagles offensive guard Nate Herbig, which made Van Roten expendable. Herbig played three seasons and started 17 games with the Eagles before leaving after the draft.
Van Rotten’s release frees up $3.5 million in cap space for the Jets.
numbers for crooks
The Jets announced their numbers for their 2022 rookie class.
Cornerback Ahmed Gardner picked No. 20, wide receiver Garrett Wilson picked No. 17, Bryce Hall picked No. 35, and defensive end Jermaine Johnson plucked No. 52.
Gardner indicated that it is “kind of a possibility”, although he will change his number.
In the remainder of the draft class, offensive tackles choose Max Mitchell No. 61, defensive end Michael Clemons No. 72, and tight end Jeremy Ruckert sporting No. 89.
None of the drafts contain the number he wore to college.
Gardner rocked No. 1 and No. 12 during his time in Cincinnati. Wilson played No. 5 at Ohio State while Johnson played No. 11 during his final year at Florida State. Hall picked number 28 at Iowa State before running for 50 touchdowns in his college career.
Ruckert wore No. 88 at Ohio State, Mitchell’s No. 74 in Louisiana, and Clemons No. 2 at Texas A&M.