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Notebook | Jets CB D.J. Reed: Sauce Gardner Moves Like He's 5-9

Says About QB Aaron Rodgers: ‘He Does Things I’ve Never Seen a Quarterback Do’


Back in March 2022 when the Jets signed cornerback D.J. Reedin free agency, there were few people outside the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center who could conceive that six weeks later the team would select an all-world running mate for Reed.

That's when general manager Joe Douglas used the No. 4 overall pick to take Sauce Gardnerout of Cincinnati. Since then, the two cornerbacks, teaming with slotback Michael Carter, have formed one of the most formidable defensive backfields in the NFL.

"It's known across the league that we're considered the best CB trio," Reed told Eric Allen in a wide-ranging conversation on "The Official Jets Podcast." "But it's a testament to how those guys work, they really put in the work every day."

Now in his third season with the Green & White (after two seasons in San Francisco and then two more in Seattle), Reed (5-9) said that he's constantly impressed when he looks across the field at the long, rangy Gardner (6-3).

"He moves like he's 5-9," Reed said. "He moves like a little guy the way he stops on a dime. He just moves real fluidly. To be that tall, it's very different. His long arms, like at the catch point, it's hard to catch a pass on him. Even if he's beat by a little bit, he sticks his arms out. He's great at getting the ball out. I think that's one of the things he does best."

He added about the two-time Associated Press first team All-Pro: "I think he's the best cornerback at the catch point. When the ball is in the air, getting the ball out. He's the leader. He's the best in the league."

As a part of one of the elite defenses in the league, Reed is looking forward to the coming season with great expectations, saying "I'm excited about this year."

"I know we're going to be good," he said. "I don't know how good we could be."

A big part of Reed's confidence stems from the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers from his season-ending torn Achilles tendon, an injury that hamstrung the offense and put so much pressure on the defense throughout last season. Now with Rodgers back, Reed said the defense has been and will be tested every day in practice.

"He changes everything," Reed said, referring to Rodgers. "Everybody around him seems better. The receivers feel better, the tight ends feel better, the running backs feel better. It just seems like everybody ups their game.

"Obviously, AR is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback for a reason. As far as his arm challenge, second to none, in my opinion. Deep-ball accuracy and all the no-looks, it's crazy. He knows the look, he knows what coverage you're in and he's going to get to what he wants to get to. ... He does things I've never seen a quarterback do."

Reed added: "I watch his eyes. If you're watching Aaron's eyes, it's not helping you at all actually."

When the Jets' schedule came out, Reed discovered that he will be facing the team that drafted him out of Kansas State in the 49ers (on the road for the season opener on Monday night) and also face the Seahawks. When he was selected by San Francisco in the fifth round (No. 142) of the 2018 NFL Draft, Robert Saleh was the team's defensive coordinator who pegged Reed as an inside DB because of his size.

"When I got drafted, they pretty much called me and said 'we're gonna put you at free safety, then we're also gonna play you at nickel,' " Reed said. "A lot of coaches like guys at a certain length, a certain height, especially for a scheme like cover three. So, I mean, it was definitely understandable at the time. But you have exceptions, and, obviously, I was an exception."

See photos of the Jets' 90-man roster leading up to 2024 training camp.

Playoff Drought to End?
Jets players know. Jets fans know. The Green & White has not been to the postseason in the NFL in 14 years, dating to the 2010 season.

That long nightmare will end this season in the opinion of writer Jeff Kerr.

The Jets appear "to be the prime candidate to make the playoffs in 2024, if Aaron Rodgers is healthy that is," he wrote. "A healthy Rodgers changes the entire fortune for the Jets, who went 'all-in' with their offseason moves for the second straight year."

As Kerr points out, general manager Joe Douglas has provided Rodgers and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett with a couple of enticing options at receiver. The Jets signed veteran Mike Williams to pair with Garrett Wilson on the outside. The Jets then moved up in the third round of the NFL Draft to nab YAC King Malachi Corley as an option in the slot or elsewhere.

"The Jets arguably have one of the best running back rooms in football with Breece Hall, Israel Abanikanda and rookie Braelon Allen," Kerr wrote. We would also add to that list rookie Isaiah Davis.

But perhaps the most important upgrades have come on the offensive line.

"They also improved the offensive line by signing Tyron Smith and John Simpson in free agency and selecting Olu Fashanu in the first round [plus trading for Morgan Moses]. This unit also has Alijah Vera-Tucker holding down the fort at right guard."

Kerr added: "Haason Reddick was added to help out Jermaine Johnson on the edge, while the defensive interior now has Javon Kinlaw and Leki Fotu to help out Quinnen Williams. Don't forget Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are in the secondary.

"Despite all the drama, the Jets are talented. If Rodgers is healthy, this team should snap a 14-year playoff drought."

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