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Which Jets Player Impressed the Most During OTAs?

Sauce Gardner, Tyler Conklin and Xavier Gipson Among Players Who Have Looked Good in Spring


Throughout the offseason, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will give their responses to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: Which Jets impressed the most in OTAs?

EA: It is difficult not to pick Aaron Rodgers, Garrett Wilson or the QB1-WR1 combination itself. But I'm going to zag here a little bit and take CB Sauce Gardner and LT Tyron Smith. Entering his third year, Gardner is embracing a leadership role. It wasn't long ago that Gardner and Tony Oden were huddling up after every rep as the eager newcomer was trying to digest as much information as possible. Now Gardner, entering Year 3, has such a good feel of what's coming and he's doing a bunch of coaching himself. During a recent OTA, Gardner snuffed out a quick Rodgers pass to TE Tyler Conklin for a would-be TFL on the first play of team. He is so naturally gifted and is blessed with great instincts, but Gardner has acquired a lot of knowledge the past two years. The NFL's best cornerback is becoming a more complete ballplayer and that's a scary thought. In regard to Smith, he is one of the most impressive physical specimens I've ever seen. The 6-5, 320-pounder effortlessly moves around in drills and its fun watching him use his big mitts to swat. Smith has freakish upper body strength and Robert Saleh said the other day that No. 77 was repping out with 400-plus+ pounds. He is a master technician and young guys like Olu Fashanu and Carter Warren are going to benefit from watching this eight-time Pro Bowler on and off the field.

EG: I'm going to avoid the obvious and go with WR-KR Xavier Gipson. Gipson showed last season he's electric with the ball in his hands and he looks more comfortable on offense. While Mike Williams rehabs his ACL injury, and with Irv Charles and Jason Brownlee working to the side this week, Gipson continued to receive first-team reps and continued to make plays. He scored a 59-yard touchdown on a deep pass from Aaron Rodgers in the team's situational period this week. Gipson also continues to look smooth, perhaps smoother, catching punts. Perhaps Gipson's role on offense could increase as a sophomore. Sticking with special teams, it's important to note Greg Zuerlein seems to be in midseason form in OTAs and made all 5 of his kick attempts with ease this week.

See all of the best photos from OTA No. 9 during the 2024 offseason program.

RL: Garrett Wilson has jumped out and not only because of his new uniform number. He's maneuvered all across the offensive formation reeling in passes from Aaron Rodgers and Tyrod Taylor. Rodgers seems to be building increasing confidence in throwing to G.W., who's caught no-look passes, made outstanding fingertip grabs and gone up over the middle for some leaping snags in traffic. OK, the traffic is no-contact, not bumper-cars, but still. And about that uni. Wilson has switched, you may have heard and/or seen, from 17 to 5 for his third Jets campaign. Only four other Jets WRs in franchise history have worn single numbers in the regular season, and no wideouts have ever worn No. 5. Wilson and No. 8 Rodgers have given signs in these OTA practices that each can have a singular season in the Jets' new game gear and both appear poised to add their names to the great Green & White pass-and-catch combos.

CH: Tyler Conklin has been consistent throughout OTAs. Even without pads, the veteran tight end has shown speed in his route running while repeatedly connecting with Aaron Rodgers. Earlier this week Conklin said: "The cool part is that towards the end of last year, getting some reps with Rodgers [in practice] before the season was over and then jumping right back into it. It's obviously nice to have him back and to be back with the team and obviously getting the offense going." Robert Saleh also praised Conklin's impressive contested catches from last season and his leadership. I think Conklin is someone to keep an eye on as training camp and the season progress. If he can continue to build the chemistry he has with Rodgers in OTAs, the pair could be connecting a lot this season.

JP: This offseason, the Jets added wide receiver Mike Williams from the Chargers to be the running mate to Garrett Wilson's rising star. With Williams still sidelined as a he recovers from a torn ACL, sustained in Week 3 of last year, however, WR Xavier Gipson has received more first-team reps and stood out in OTAs. Gipson spent last offseason carving out a roster spot as a returner, but this time around he has been carving out a role on offense. He's been one of QB Aaron Rodgers favorite targets in 11-on-11 sessions. On Tuesday, Gipson beat the defense over the top for a 59-yard touchdown pass from the four-time MVP. In addition, HC Robert Saleh told reporters last week that Gipson, who was the Jets' primary punt returner last season, would get "first dibs" to be their returner in 2024.

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