When it comes to cornerback combos, the Jets' dynamic duo of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner and veteran D.J. Reed is among the best in the entire league.
In fact, Bucky Brooks, an NFL.com analyst, rated them as the No. 1 CB combo ahead of the 2023 season in a recent column on the league's website.
On Wednesday, the first day of training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Reed said that he feels "a lot of energy in the building."
"It feels different than last year," said Reed, who signed with the Green & White in 2022 after spending two seasons in San Francisco and then two more in Seattle. "I feel more excitement coming into this year."
Reed, 26, emerged as one of general manager Joe Douglas' value free-agent additions, a guy who brought a veteran presence to the defensive backfield and was the perfect complement to the talented rookie across the field.
"I told Sauce yesterday [Monday] that people might not like some of the things he's done and said, but they can't deny that he was first team All-Pro, had the most PDs [passes defensed]. People can say what they want, but he put it on tape last year. One thing we have is humility. We know last year was last year and that to get where we want to be — we have to get better."
For his part in a defense that emerged as No. 4 overall in the league, Reed was pretty darn good. He started and played in all 17 games, had 12 PDs and made 63 solo tackles (80 overall), both the best of his NFL career. During the offseason, Reed said that he worked mostly on enhancing his speed.
"It was important during offseason training to really focus on speed work," he said. "I already know how to play cornerback. I needed explosive work in the weight room. I'm playing against some fast guys, like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen [Waddle], and I have to make sure my speed is up to par."
Reed said that his heightened level of excitement coming into this season was obviously piqued by the team's acquisition of veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The two live near each other in California and Reed said he, literally, ran into Rodgers when they were both working out on sand dunes in the area.
"We've got Aaron Rodgers and we've got our main guys back, so for me, it's probably the most excited I've been," he said. "He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and playing against him [in OTAs] you've got to be on your P's and Q's. He throws on a dot, especially those deep balls. That workout on the sand dunes ... it was intense.
"He's already helped us a lot. We've talked about what teams look at when they're preparing for us, what they think they can exploit. Talking with him [Rodgers] from that aspect is cool. We saw a lot of deep balls in OTAs."
See the 2023 Jets arriving at 1 Jets Drive for the start of training camp.
C.J. Mosley on Aaron Rodgers: It's 'the Little Things'
In the game within the game, a pair of wily veterans -- LB C.J. Mosley and QB Aaron Rodgers -- have quickly forged a mutual respect.
"In the offseason so far [during OTAs] he's got me two or three times on no-look passes and I've got him once," Mosley said. "He's ahead now. I'm getting better at my game looking at him, seeing what he sees. That's been the situation in practice, the little things."
"We had camp with them," Mosley said, referring to the Jets-Packers joint practice ahead of their preseason game at Lambeau Field in 2021. "We saw a little bit. But being around him every day and going against him you see how much attention to detail and control there is. He has the respect from his peers, he's played in a lot of big games and has longevity in the NFL. Knowledge. Some things you can't coach."
Mosley, the captain of the defense, is coming off a solid season, his third on the field with the Jets. He returned to the Pro Bowl and led the team with 158 tackles (99 solo) and 9 PDs. Like his teammates, he feels a sense of anticipation and excitement.
"We have a big name in Aaron Rodgers," Mosley said. "And from his first day, you can kind of feel the screws and bolts tightened up with the name and weight he carries. Everyone is excited top to bottom. We all have the same mindset and excitement. We did a good job in the offseason getting ready. Now's the time to go to work and put it together."
AVT: Had Company in His Injury Misery
Alijah Vera-Tucker, the Jets' immensely talented and versatile offensive lineman, found himself in an unaccustomed spot about midway through last season -- on the Injured List. He sustained a season-ending triceps injury during the Week 7 victory at Denver.
"It was definitely tough, physically and mentally," AVT said on Wednesday. "I felt like I was having a good season, helping the team however I could. To go down with an injury like that, it's so random, but injuries come with the game of football. During the offseason, I took on the mindset to do all I could do and come back stronger. I'm excited to get to it."
Drafted No. 14 overall in 2021, AVT was pressed into duty at right guard (three games) after the signing of Laken Tomlinson. And because of injuries across the offensive line, he also saw time at left tackle (one game) and right tackle (two games) and became only the third lineman since 2006 to play four different positions in his first 22 NFL games, according to Sports Radar.
"That was tough a thing to go through for any position group," he said. "I felt like the O-line handled it well for the circumstance. A lot of guys were hurt. It kind of helped us build our connection with each other coming into this season."
And it was more than a strange coincidence that another of the Jets' promising young players on offense, rookie running back Breece Hall, also sustained a season-ending (knee) injury in that game at Denver. The two rising young stars drew strength from each other as they rehabbed at 1 Jets Drive during the offseason.
"It probably helped both of us because we weren't alone," Vera-Tucker said. "Seeing Beece every day made me want to work harder. We were both in the same boat and wanted to bounce back this year, so why not do it together.
"I think what we learned is that you got to deal with cards you're dealt. Last year we had some injuries, me and Breece. There are other things we all could learn from last year. We learned that you have to move on and deal with it. In football, things are going to happen. This year we have a lot of high hopes. There are a lot of good vibes."