While the rookie may have just earned the title of starting cornerback for the Week 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens, Ahmad Gardner admitted that he still has not earned the nickname "Sauce," in the view of some of his teammates.
"No not yet," Gardner said in response to a question about what his teammates call him. "I have to make some more plays."
When Saleh spoke about Gardner after the Jets 31-27 preseason win against the Giants, he did not hesitate or mince words.
"He's going to be our Week 1 starter," Saleh said. "He's been fantastic. Bryce Hall has had a really good training camp also, but at the same time with the overall body of work since OTAs, it's clear that the kid is going to be pretty good."
Gardner, who played with the starters on defense against the Giants, did not take the starting nod for granted.
"It meant a lot," Gardner said. "I just had to come in here and be myself. They drafted me for a reason, they drafted me to be myself, and I appreciate the way they made me work for it. Instead of being like 'he's the fourth pick let's just put him in there,' they made me work for it, so they didn't jeopardize the respect the DB room has for me and the coaches."
Through the first two preseason games, Gardner has had 18 coverage snaps without being targeted by a QB, putting him in a tie among all cornerbacks per Pro Football Focus. While Gardner is happy with his progress up to this point, he said he's ready for the regular season.
"I just always bust my tail and work very hard," Gardner said. "I don't think I got any targets in the preseason, but the preseason is in the past now. I'm looking forward to Week 1, the season, and the future."