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Jets CB 'Sauce' Gardner Impresses Teammates While Battling for Starting Job

The Rookie With Swagger: 'I Just Need to Keep Being Me'


The Jets released their first unofficial depth chart of the season on Monday and listed rookie Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner in a tie with Bryce Hall for the outside cornerback spot across from the former Seahawk D.J. Reed, who was signed in free agency.

But early in camp, the No. 4 overall pick in April's NFL Draft has captivated, impressed and amused his teammates.

"I just need to keep being me, continue to just work and so that way I could be the best," Gardner told reporters on Monday. "I know that as long as I just keep working the right thing is going to happen."

Hall and Gardner have alternated playing with the first team, and in Reed's absence on Saturday and Monday, they started opposite one another in the Green & White scrimmage at MetLife Stadium and at One Jets Drive.

While the first-team defense is expected to play about a quarter in Friday's first preseason game at Philadelphia, Gardner's size and technical skills during practice have not gone unnoticed or unremarked.

Defensive tackle Solomon Thomas gave Gardner glowing endorsement: "He is a competitor. he is a guy that gets after it. He is very technical. I am very impressed with him, just in OTAs and the way he approached the game. His talent level is off the charts and then his work ethic is great. I am excited to see him put it all together."

Corey Davis, listed as the team's X receiver in the first depth chart, lined up across from Gardner twice in the move-the-ball period on Monday. And despite beating him once for a 10-yard gain and later scoring a touchdown with him in the vicinity, Davis said that Gardner made him work.

"I am trying a different release on him, and I am trying to do different things," Davis said. "As I said, he is a real physical dude and he's fast, too, and he's got really long arms so he can recover.

"He's different. He has got the speed. He has got the size. And he is real physical off the press. We are always on our toes against him."

Drafted out of Cincinnati, Gardner (6-3, 200) impressed the Jets in the pre-draft process with his 6-7 wingspan, which tested in the 95th percentile at the Combine, and 33-inch, testing in the 97th.

After Gardner arrived in the Big Apple, he drew obvious comparisons to Darrelle Revis, a former Jet who was a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro. But he likens his game to players that share his size, hand-fighting ability and trash-talk prowess: Richard Sherman and Jalen Ramsey.

"I used to just watch how patient [Sherman] was at the line of scrimmage," Gardner said. "His length reminded me of myself. I can see myself in him. He is a great great player. Still is. And [Ramsey], he gave me the same vibes. He is very physical, trash talks, and he just goes in there with the mentality that he going to dominate."

See the Green & White on the field in full pads during week three at training camp.

Gardner has picked his spots in the trash-talking department so far, considering he is lining up against his teammates. But Thomas and Davis said that Gardner already squabbles like some of the best.

"Like the great ones," Thomas said. "If you can talk trash as a rookie and back it up, you're pretty special."

Davis refrained from sharing any stories, but the initial returns impressed: "He is definitely up there, he knows how to trash talk. I think he is from Detroit, so you know what I'm saying. He knows a little bit."

Gardner may well be the Jets' franchise corner of the future, though it's way too early to say. Between his stylish silver grills, ability to banter at the line of scrimmage and natural skills he has made a quick impression on his teammates.

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