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Cornerback Reset | Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed & Michael Carter II Remain Among NFL's Most Elite DB Trios in '23

Depth Chart Could Look Different in ’24 With Bryce Hall, Justin Hardee Headed for Free Agency

Table inside Article
Player Exper in '23 GP-GS-DNP-IA D-ST-Tot Snaps
Sauce Gardner 2nd 16 - 16 - 0 - 1 1051 - 10 - 1061
D.J. Reed 6th 15 - 15 - 0 - 2 993 - 11 - 1004
Michael Carter 3rd 15 - 7 - 0 - 2 671 - 8 - 679
Brandin Echols 3rd 14 - 1 - 0 - 2 143 - 222 - 365
Bryce Hall 4th 9 - 2 - 0 - 8 138 - 132 - 270
Justin Hardee 7th 11 - 0 - 0 - 0 0 - 263 - 263
Craig James 4th 2 - 0 - 0 - 0 42 - 27 - 69
Tae Hayes 4th 1 - 0 - 0 - 0 13 - 10 - 23

(Justin Hardee also listed with special teams)

Finished Season on IR: Javelin Guidry

Finished Season on Practice Squad: Hayes

Signed Reserve/Future Contract: Hayes

No Longer with Jets: James


Unrestricted: Hall, Hardee Restricted: Guidry

Lay of the Land in '24
The Jets will keep their core of Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and nickel Michael Carter II intact with all three under contract as they head into the 2024 offseason. Despite each missing games in 2023-24, the Green & White's three best CBs each finished top nine in snaps played on defense. Gardner and Reed (who combined to miss three games) played the fourth- and fifth-most, respectively.

While the Jets starters may remain, the depth chart could look unfamiliar. Bryce Hall, who was drafted by the team in 2020 (Rd. 5, No. 158), will be an unrestricted free agent. Hall had another solid season playing in nine games and filling in as a starter for two. He recorded 2 pass defenses, an interception and produced a scoop-and-score touchdown in Week 5 to seal a Jets win against the Broncos.

In addition, Justin Hardee, primarily a special teams contributor, will be a free agent after missing six games with a hamstring injury. Signed by the Jets in 2021 as a free agent, Hardee earned Pro Bowl honors as a special teamer, but has played one defensive snap since arriving in New York. The only backup CB that played significant time this past season who will be under contract is Brandin Echols. Drafted by the Jets in 2021 (Rd. 6, No. 200), Echols played 14 games (2 starts) this past season and recorded a pick and 2 pass defenses.

Quick Look Back at '23
Gardner followed up his stellar rookie season by becoming the first CB since the AFL/NFL merger to be named to The Associated Press First Team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons. In addition, he earned a second trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 11 pass defenses, 55 tackles and allowing 31 completions for 251 yards (0.4 yards allowed per coverage snap) in 583 coverage snaps.

As a whole, the Jets' defense finished No. 2 in passing yards allowed (168.3 yards per game) and No. 4 in passing TDs allowed (11),which reflected positively on the Jets CBs. The group helped extend the team's streak of games in which they had not allowed a 300-plus yard passer, to 33 games before it surrendered 301 to QB Joe Flacco in Week 17. In total the Jets have allowed three 300-plus-yard performances through the air in their last 45 games thanks in large part to the cornerbacks.

Carter II received a vote for The AP's All-Pro Slot Corner position thanks to another strong campaign playing between Reed and Gardner. He was targeted a career-low 62 times and allowed a career-low 32 receptions for 299 yards and 1 TD. Reed, in his second season with Green & White, recorded an interception and allowed just 47 completions on 80 targets.

Outside of the Jets' big-three at CB, Echols, Hall and Tae Hayes stepped up at key moments throughout the season. Their standout moment came in Week 6 against the defending NFC champion Eagles when Reed and Gardner were out with concussions and Echols with a hamstring. That afternoon, Hall played all 70 defensive snaps and Hayes played 13. The Jets CBs mixed up looks and helped force QB Jalen Hurts into 3 interceptions, including one by Hall.

CB Trivia
Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter have combined for 71 passes defensed the past two seasons. The corners' production is a major reason the Jets have risen in a number of NFL coverage rankings. The Jets allowed 168 net pass yards/game, 2nd in the league and their best final ranking since also finishing second in 2012. The team's 91 PDs this season placed third and was their most since the 1998 team had 94. And their opponents' combined passer rating of 76.0 was also third and their best since the 2011 Jets held enemy pass offenses to a 69.6 rating.

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