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The New York Jets closed the preseason 3-0 with a 31-27 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night, and after the game, head coach Robert Saleh finally put an end to the question of who would fill out the starting cornerback position: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner.
“He’s going to be our Week 1 headline,” Saleh told reporters during their post-game pressure. “It’s been fantastic. Bryce Hall has had a really good training camp too, but at the same time with the overall work from the OTAs, it’s clear the kid is going to be pretty good.”
Prior to Saleh’s announcement, the fourth overall pick in the 2022 draft spoke to Fox News Digital about his preseason appearances and his comfort level on the field.
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“I just have to keep taking it time by time, you know, stay focused, not get too far ahead of myself. If I’m doing my job, you know that’s what’s expected of me. That’s why I was drafted.”
He continued: “I just have to stay level-headed and not be too cocky, too excited about what’s going on.”
A three-time All-American Athletic Conference first-team selection, the Cincinnati standout recorded 31 tackles in 14 games, returning two of his three interceptions for touchdowns as a freshman.
The following season, he recorded 28 stops in nine games before finishing his final season with the Bearcats with 40 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups, earning him AAC Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
Gardner is already well known for his confidence on the field, but he told Fox News Digital: “I still have a lot to work on. I could still get better.”
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Helping him along the way is Saleh, whose praise for Gardner has been constant throughout training camp and preseason. the former Cincinnati standout He said he appreciates having a head coach with Saleh’s experience.
“It’s great. You know, that’s how it was in Cincinnati with coach Luke Fickell,” Gardner explained. “To be able to have a head coach come in, and he knows everything that’s going on… [him] being a defensive coach is just a different feeling. He knows exactly what he is talking about. He knows what everybody else is supposed to do, like he’s the defensive coordinator. He used to be a defense coordinator, so he makes sense.”
Despite the success of jets Before their Week 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens, their roster was hit remarkably hard with injuries that could sideline quarterback Zach Wilson for the season opener and offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, who was moved to on injured reserve list after suffering a chip fracture to the right side. ball joint.
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“We just have to take more care of our bodies,” Gardner told Fox News Digital of the injuries. “That’s been the main thing in training camp. Making sure everybody takes care of their body because nobody knows when their last play is going to be. It just happens. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can so we know we can stay in that field and be available”.
Still, the Jets haven’t missed a beat. A lot of it, according to the rookie, has to do with team chemistry.
“We’ve been forming a brotherhood, doing a lot of things on the field and off the field… We’ve gotten really close, you know, not just defense and defense and offense and offense, but offense, defense, special teams — we’ve all been coming together. And I feel like that’s why we can go out on the field to dominate because we know we’re doing it for each other.”
Gardner earned the starting position over the weekend, but he told Fox News Digital that he hasn’t earned his famous nickname yet.
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“No, it’s still Ahmad,” he said with a smile. “But I have no problem with that, I love my name.”
Willow, a nickname first earned as a 6-year-old from his Little League coach, has morphed into something more for the 21-year-old rookie. He teamed up with Buffalo Wild Wings to create his own limited edition sauce called “Sauce Sauce.”
A “natural” fit, as Gardner put it.
“It’s a blessing to be able to have this partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings. I feel like it was intentional, it’s natural. You know, they know the meaning of the sauce… If you don’t have the sauce, then you lost.”