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By: Rivka Boord
Sauce Gardner speaks highly of New York Jets’ cornerback room while making light of his detractors
New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner has certainly had his moments this offseason. From his cheesehead antics in trying to recruit Aaron Rodgers to his recent Twitter showdown with Asante Samuel, Sauce never fails to get a reaction.
As motivated and confident as Sauce is, he has impressed many Jets fans with his ability to stay humble. That was no different in his post-practice press conference today.
When asked if he sees himself as the best cornerback in the NFL, Gardner responded, “Me personally, I would say that—I always think I’m the best at what I do—but I’m going into my second year. I can’t really just say that, because it’s about what you do every week [and] every year. I can’t say which cornerback I think is the best… it’s another year for all the cornerbacks to prove how good they are.”
He then voiced that teammate D.J. Reed is his favorite cornerback in the NFL. Reed was a Pro Bowl snub in 2022 after favorably comparing to most of the NFL’s top-rated corners.
On how he can improve in Year 2
After such an elite rookie season where he achieved his coveted triumvirate—Pro Bowl, first-team All-Pro, and Defensive Rookie of the Year—Sauce was asked how anything can get better in his second year. He said that he’s shifting his approach to be more team-oriented, pointing to the Jets’ chances to do something special. Therefore, his focus is on being a better teammate so that the team can win the Super Bowl.
When it comes to his game, Gardner said that he’s working on his ball skills and locating the ball better. He also commented that his press footwork is an area he’s perfecting, putting in 500 reps in a single day. He cited Malcolm Gladwell’s statement that it takes doing the same thing 10,000 times to master it, which he learned from defensive backs coach Tony Oden.
As far as his goals for this season, Gardner smiled sheepishly when recalling his statement that he wants the [defensive] MVP. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, not that I’m going to doubt myself, but reaching for the stars will help all the other stuff fall in line. I always try to do stuff like that,” he remarked.
Later, the second-year cornerback stated that the biggest lesson he learned from his rookie season was not to get complacent. Even if he’s done his job on the field and earned accolades, Gardner’s philosophy is, “Now what? What else can I do to get better?”
On the haters
Gardner stated that he doesn’t really understand haters, but that’s just what some people do. He sees it as weird and stated that the Jets don’t do that in their cornerback room. When they study film and watch different corners, they’re just trying to get better based on what they see. They don’t knock players who had bad reps or get more credit than they should.
“Me personally, I just wasn’t raised like that,” Gardner said. “I never hate on the next man, but I can’t control what other people do.”
When asked how he deals with the haters, Sauce expressed that his own positivity is a shield from the noise. He admitted that it’s different when it’s peers around the league hating as opposed to fans but said that it doesn’t prevent him from doing his thing.
Gardner waved off the idea that he would use the hate as motivation. “I’ve got a lot of other stuff that motivates me,” he said. “Where I come from, my mom, my family, getting a Super Bowl in my second year, Detroit, the list goes on.”
On his fellow cornerbacks
Gardner appreciates his relationship with Reed, which he said grew pretty quickly. Although neither one talked that much when they first got to New York, Gardner said it was great to establish that bond with both Reed and the rest of the cornerback room.
Sauce then singled out Michael Carter II for praise. He expressed admiration for Carter’s intelligence and ability to perform dual responsibilities in coverage and in the run fit. It made him both respect the nickel position more and also respect Carter.
- Gardner sees the Jets’ defense as the top in the league but said that they have to keep communicating, finding ways to get better, and flying to the ball.
- On whether some still call him Ahmad: “My cornerback coach [does]. A lot of people still do.”
- About how the last year has been for him: “It’s been great. Being in New York there’s always going to be a lot of cameras and hype… It’s been a huge test for me, and I love getting tested.”
- Gardner said that he plans on watching Darrelle Revis go into the Hall of Fame. He said that he first spoke to Revis shortly after he was drafted.
- About his own Hall of Fame aspirations, Sauce said that it’s “most definitely” something he dreams about, as he began with the end in mind. However, he still takes it one day at a time.
- Sauce said he has not told Rodgers to throw his way in training camp. He said he’s sure Rodgers will do it anyway in training camp, and he’s looking forward to it. He also commented that he has a “welcome to New York” gift for Rodgers that he thinks Rodgers will like, even though it’s probably not his style.
Elsewhere on the team
When talking about Rodgers, Tyler Conklin commented that Jeremy Ruckert is 22, while Duane Brown, heading into his 18th season in the NFL, has a 19-year-old daughter. He said it’s cool to be with a guy who has made it that long.
Conklin said that he’s watched plenty of film of Rodgers throwing to Jermichael Finley, Robert Tonyan, and Jared Cook. He pointed out that each of those players did somewhat unique and different things with Rodgers; Cook ran many slants and glances, while Tonyan was more of an H-back with swirls and corners. Conklin tried to pick up on what Rodgers saw in the past with his tight ends.
Quinton Jefferson, meanwhile, was asked what made the Jets an attractive situation for him. “Man, you see that D-line?” he said with a smile. “You got some dogs on there.” He expressed excitement to get out there with what is already a strong defensive line, which will cause a lot of problems for other teams.
Jefferson is happy to be in a system that’s the opposite of what he’s coming from in Seattle, which lets him get after it more. Though he knows there’s still plenty of responsibility—there’s a lot more pressure to kick it into gear and make plays—but he said he’s being intentional about firing off and letting his athleticism take over, playing more exclusively at the 3-technique.
The Jets have their first open practice on Saturday. The first four open practices sold out within three minutes of going live.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor