The Jets are taking a page out of the playbook that Sauce Gardner’s college team used.
Asked for his impressions of the much-hyped rookie cornerback, reigning Jets defensive captain C.J. Mosley referred in his answer to Gardner by his given first name “Ahmad” rather than his preferred nickname. Why?
“He’s Ahmad until the season starts and he makes a play,” said Mosley, adding “pretty much” everyone in the locker room is playing along. “Ahmad it is.”
The form of rookie initiation should be familiar to Gardner, whose college coaches and upper-class teammates pulled the same stunt. Despite going by “Sauce” since he was 6 years old, Gardner had to earn the nickname at Cincinnati, which he did with a pick-six in an upset win against Central Florida as a freshman.
“Ahmad has some sauce to him, that’s for sure,” Mosley said. “On the field, he’s working all the time. He’s on the sideline asking questions. Off the field, he’s very confident, as well. He’s a very smart player, and you respect that a lot. He doesn’t try to act like he knows everything. He listens and tries to do the right thing.”
Newly signed left tackle Duane Brown — a free agent from the Seahawks — joined the Jets on the field Monday for the first time but ran through conditioning drills while his teammates practiced.
“He played football last year, and he looked fantastic doing it,” coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s just a matter of clearing him of all the medical hurdles, and then just watching him today with the trainers, he’s fine.”
If Brown, 36, had not signed, the Jets would’ve turned to either Chuma Edoga or Max Mitchell as a starting tackle in place of the injured Mekhi Becton. Any mixed emotions about losing a chance to compete for a starting job?
“Absolutely not,” said Mitchell, who did not play in a game as a fourth-round pick during his rookie season. “Fair game. I’m excited to learn from him more than anything. Fifteen years [in the NFL], that’s a testament. I’ve got nothing to lose here.”
Converted cornerback Jason Pinnock is getting extra reps at safety the last two days because of the trickle effect of Lamarcus Joyner’s absence (illness). He first made the switch late last season.
“I really like where he’s at,” Saleh said. “He is a freak of nature in terms of just length, speed, athleticism. Love his physicality. There are some things that he has to feel not necessarily from an instinctive standpoint, but just from a reactionary standpoint because he’s used to playing a different position. His communication is getting louder, so that tells you that his confidence in what he’s being asked to do is getting better.”
Watching Joe Flacco, 37, lead the starting offense against the starting defense in training camp takes Mosley back to his rookie season with the Ravens in 2014. Flacco led the Ravens to a 10-6 mark that season, but he was 0-4 as the Jets’ fill-in starter last season.
“Honestly, he looks the exact same,” Mosley said. “He still has that good arm, nice release, tall in the pocket. Still running around, so you don’t see that too many times from a 35-plus(-year-old) guy. He’s looked confident. He knows the offense. If his number is called, we all know he’ll be ready.”
Flacco is stepping in while Zach Wilson is sidelined with a torn meniscus. His availability for the Sept. 11 season opener is in doubt.