Standout rookie CB Sauce Gardner and the Jets' sticky secondary have the task of defending Vikings' All-Pro WR Justin Jefferson on Sunday. It's another test against a high-profile wideout that is excites the Cincinnati Product.
"These are the types of games that I love," Gardner said. "I love going against the best. I am looking forward to it and I know the guys in the secondary are looking forward to it as well."
In the Gardner's first season he has already matched up with All-Pro wideouts Miami's Tyreek Hill, Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase and Buffalo's Stefon Diggs. The Jets secondary combined to surrender 18 receptions, 169 yards and 1 touchdown to that threesome this season.
Gardner leads the NFL in passes defended and has allowed 57 yards in man coverage – the fewest among 78 players with at least 15-man coverage targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
Head coach Robert Saleh is confident Gardner will hold his own against arguably the league's best wideout and his Pro Bowl counterparts WR Adam Thielen and TE T.J. Hockenson.
"We've had some great challenges all year," Saleh said. "You've had Miami's group, Buffalo's group, there's been a lot of really good receivers that we've had to go against. Cincinnati's group. So, it's another challenge for us and just knowing our secondary, they're ready to take that challenge on."
Jefferson is No. 2 in the league in receiving yards with 1,232, No. 3 in receptions with 81, and over the last 3 games has 2 receiving touchdowns and averaged 121.7 receiving yards a game.
The LSU product possesses unique physical abilities, and Minnesota's first-year head coach Kevin O'Connell has lined him up in a variety of places to maximize his talents.
"He is a super-dynamic athlete with his speed, quickness and burst," said Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. "He's got catch radius. He's got just insane body control. But at the same time, on top of all that stuff. They're featuring him in very cool ways. They're getting him on the move, putting them all over the field running a whole wide array of routes so it's hard to get a beat on."
Gardner said on Wednesday that he is unsure if he would shadow Jefferson directly but would be open to it.
In 11 games, Gardner has spent 91% of snaps at the left outside corner, according to the Next Gen Stats. D.J. Reed has been at the right outside corner for 91.7% of snaps. Jefferson has lined up on the right on 27.7% of snaps and on the left on 47.8%.
"I might travel. I don't know yet," Gardner said. "[Of] course I would like to, but I don't know yet. … But when you got two dominant corners you don't have to do it and we have been holding strong all season, so we don't necessarily need to change anything."
Sunday will be clash of the league's elites, but Gardner remains unfazed.
"He is a pretty good receiver," Gardner said. "He runs good routes. His film speaks for itself. … We all got a job to do, executing and everything will take care of itself."