Asked what he thinks Sauce Gardner can become in the NFL, Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich didn’t even want to answer the question out of fear that it would get back to the rookie cornerback.
Between Gardner’s renowned quickness, top-notch ball skills and the swagger with which he struts (and talks) around the field, Ulbrich probably doesn’t want it to go to the 21-year-old’s head before he even makes his NFL debut. It’s safe to say, however, the Jets think very highly of their fourth-overall pick from this year’s draft.
“He has a unique confidence, especially for a rookie,” Ulbrich said after practice on Tuesday. “It just speaks to who he is as a man. A lot of times you see fake swagger, fake confidence, and phony talk. With him, it’s completely authentic. In reality, it’s earned from the way he prepares and the way he works and the way he knows what he’s doing. He’s very aware of his ability and what he’s capable of becoming.
“It’s really cool when you have guys that have that sort of confidence and swag, it just elevates the group. He’ll continue to have that effect on the group.”
Ulbrich said Gardner is the kind of player who is constantly collecting information and sprinting back to the locker room to write it down and compile a sort of database for himself. Head coach Robert Saleh also noted that Gardner may not ever stop talking on the field, but he backs it up with his play.
Asked when the last time he had a rookie as verbal as Gardner, Saleh without hesitation said five-time Pro Bowler Jalen Ramsey.
“We had that two-minute drive and the offense went and scored and got the two-point conversion, then he runs and wants another set,” Saleh said of Gardner, who was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year with Cincinnati in 2021. “He’s like, ‘Bring it back. We want one more set on defense,’ but they hit their play quota, so we had to shut it down. You love the competitiveness. You love the attention to detail. You love the way he strains in football. It is definitely not too big for him.”
In order to get their roster down to 85, the Jets cut DB Luq Barcoo, OL Derrick Kelly, DL Tim Ward and WR Rashard Davis. The Jets also officially placed OT Mekhi Becton on injured reserve.