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Jets CB 'Sauce' Gardner: 'We've Just Got to Focus on Jacksonville'

Elite Rookie Was Miffed at Not Being Targeted Once by the Lions


If Jets cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is not yet the landlord of his island, he can certainly see that speck of turf growing bigger and bigger off in the distance.

As good as the rookie out of Cincinnati by way of Detroit has been in the 2022 NFL season -- and he has been quite good, leading the league with 16 passes defensed -- Gardner has no desire to be stranded on a desert island, even one on which he holds the lease.

That was the news from Sauce Island after Lions quarterback Jared Goff basically ignored Gardner's side of the field during Detroit's 20-17 win on Sunday.

"I wasn't targeted yesterday, not once," Gardner said on Monday as he and his teammates prepared for Thursday night's game against visiting Jacksonville. "I don't know what their mentality is, or mindset is when they go up against us. Yesterday, I wasn't targeted. I take that kind of personal because I actually wanted to make a bigger and a better impact on the game, especially going against my hometown team."

Gardner, 22, grew up in Detroit and said that before the game he had fielded a slew of calls and texts from friends back home. And showing the confidence that has put him in the conversation for the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, he told them that he was planning to snatch a pick-six interception against his hometown team. Though that didn't happen (Gardner has 2 INTs so far this season; in addition to being responsible for a safety), his mere presence on the field made an impact.

"The hard thing is just reflecting back on the game we had yesterday," Gardner said,. "But at the same time we have a short week, so we've got to be able to get our minds right for the game on Thursday or what just happened is going to eat us alive the whole week. It's pretty hard, but we've got to be mature adults and we've just got to focus on Jacksonville."

Gardner has been all the Jets expected when they made him the No. 4 overall selection in last April's NFL Draft. He is the only rookie since 2000 to have a pass defended in each of his first seven games (he has started and played in all 14 games so far). In addition, he has allowed only 6 receptions for 28 yards in 105 coverage snaps in man-to-man coverage. He is a single pass defense away from tying the rookie franchise record of 17 that is currently shared by Darrelle Revis (the previous landlord of the island) and Dee Milliner.

Gardner was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his play in the Week 7 game at Denver when he made 10 tackles and had 3 passes defensed. He has won the Pepsi Rookie of the Week Award three times (the only defensive player to win it this season). Two of Gardner's teammates -- RB Breece Hall and WR Garrett Wilson -- have each won the rookie award twice. The Jets' trio are the only rookies to win the award multiple times.

While the quick turnaround from playing on Sunday and then again on Thursday is always a topic of discussion in the locker room, Gardner said, it is a good way for the Jets to clear their palates.

"What just happened is going to eat us alive the whole week," Gardner said. "It's pretty hard. We've got to be mature adults and we've got to just focus on Jacksonville."

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