Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner Credit: Wikipedia New York Jets, Sauce Gardner 2022, CC BY 3.0

The kids are showing out.

Rookies Breece Hall and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner are major parts of the Jets’ rebuilding process. General manager Joe Douglas has significantly upgraded the Jets’ talent on both sides of the ball since taking over the position in June 2019. It’s been an arduous climb and the team still has an obvious gap to close between themselves and the NFL’s perennial playoff contenders such as  the Kansas Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, who they will face this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Nevertheless, they have revealed a collective ascendancy under the patient but demanding teaching of second-year head coach Robert Saleh. The running back Hall and cornerback Gardner are manifestations of ability married to opportunity and systems. The pair were expected to contribute immediately this season and they were near the forefront of the Jets’ impressive 40-17 home win over their AFC East rival Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Hall, 21, drafted in the second round with the 36th pick by the Jets in April from Iowa State, rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown, in addition to 100 yards receiving on two catches, one going 79 yards. His rushing and receiving numbers were both team highs.

“We were just out there balling and making plays today,” Hall said. “The coaches put us in a good position to execute and make really good plays for the team and that is what we did.” 

Saleh was highly complimentary of the versatile Hall. “He was awesome,” he said in an effusive tone. “He’s an explosive player. When we drafted him, it was because we needed a home run hitter on this team, and he did that. He had a couple of home runs today.”

Gardner, 22, the Jets’ top pick in the 2022 draft, No. 4 overall from the University of Cincinnati, had five tackles, three for a loss and one interception. In just five games of his blooming career, the highly touted prospect is already viewed by his peers and opposing coaches as one of the best young corners in the league.

The Jets are waiting on quarterback Zach Wilson to elevate into a franchise-caliber quarterback. He’s only in his second season after being the No. 2 overall selection by the Jets in 2021. Wilson has given glimpses of being a QB who has the necessities to help lift the Jets to the upper echelon of the league since making his season debut in Week 4 after returning from a knee injury suffered in the Jets’ preseason opener.

He threw for 210 yards versus the Dolphins and despite not having a touchdown Wilson did not turn the ball over. “The expectation is changing,” Wilson said. “We’re expected to go out here and win and be shocked when we don’t. That’s how the mindset needs to be for everybody.”

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