No. 4 overall pick Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner and No. 26 overall pick Jermaine Johnson aren’t feeding into their draft status hype.
The Jets are banking on the additions of Gardner and Johnson to elevate Gang Green’s defense from the bottom of the NFL. So the two defensive first-round picks can claim dominance for their first season by predicting them. But in the rookie minicamp, neither is focused on their individual goals. They are focused on being good partners and helping the Jets win the game.
“Anything that comes with Jermain’s Jermaine, and I invest everything I can in the team,” Johnson told the Jets training facility at Florham Park on Saturday. “I don’t place a ton of expectations on myself in that aspect. In my experience, you put the team first and you work on it the right way rather than all the individual things. And more often than not, it’s being selfish. That’s more than what you could have shot for.”
Gardner was somewhat more candid with his expectations of his rookie season.
“Good impression,” Gardner said on Friday. “I know I have vets, I love being SpongeBob. I just want to get as much information out of those guys as possible, the best, best teammates I can be.”
Despite their humility, both have the talent to step up the game of the Jets’ defence.
Johnson was joined by a talented defensive line, including John Franklin-Myers and Quinnon Williams, who produced a solid season in 2021 with six sacks a piece. Carl Lawson will also be back at training camp last year with his Achilles torn. The Jets’ hope is that he can resemble Lawson, the Jets’ best player ever, destroying offensive linemen in pass and run games throughout training camp.
A group led by those three players would make Johnson’s rookie year much easier as it would reduce the pressure on him to become a leading pass rusher in Year 1.
“Those guys are professionals, professionals, right? They do things the right way. They’ve got a lot of years under their belts,” Johnson said. “So just to be able to sit around them and learn from them and Soak whatever I can. And then be able to prove himself as a worthy partner, as a worthy brother. Now, this is very important to me. So, anyway, I can do it, it’s extremely important to me. It’s really the most important thing on my mind right now is being around those people and showing them what I’m all about. ,
Gardner’s selection cemented a cornerback group that included free agents signing Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, Isaiah Dunn, Javelin Guidry and DJ Reed.
“However they want to use me, I’m ready to be versatile, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Gardner said.
“They want to play zone, they want to play man, they want to blitz me, they want to put me on linebacker,” joked Gardner. “I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I’m willing to do anything however they want to use me.”