He instantly became the highest drafted defender in the GM Joe Douglas era. While also becoming the highest drafted product out of Cincinnati in school history.
That kind of history brings with it massive expectations heading to the NFL level. When you have a nickname like “Sauce” that increases ten-fold.
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Sauce Gardner Backed up His Talk With His Play
However, that wasn’t the case with his teammates in the locker room.
Multiple veterans on the Jets came out this offseason and said that they refused to call the rookie “Sauce” until he earned it.
CJ Mosley appeared on the official Jets’ podcast and set the bar at making a play during the preseason.
Unfortunately, Sauce didn’t get any opportunities to make a play during the preseason. He appeared in 24 coverage snaps but was never targeted, per Pro Football Focus.
Well, apparently it didn’t take very long for Sauce to convince his teammates that he was the real deal.
Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Gardner revealed that following the season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens Mosley came up to him and greeted him as “Sauce.”
“Actually one of my teammates called me the name Sauce. I didn’t think it was going to happen that soon, but it was CJ Mosley. He has been calling me Ahmad this whole time but after that game, he called me Sauce. You are the first person to know that one.”
The Backbone of the Defense
Robert Saleh has said since he was originally hired that the backbone of the defense will be the line play.
Their ability to create pressure allows the rest of the defense to function the way it is supposed to. However, after the Week 1 performance by the Jets secondary, a narrative shift may be in order.
This offseason the Jets put their money where their mouth was by investing the No. 4 overall pick in Sauce and spent over $33 million in free agent dollars to add DJ Reed Jr.
So what did they do?
In Week 1 versus the Ravens, Reed allowed a zero passer rating, and Sauce was right behind him at 42.4. They were the only cornerback tandem in the NFL that were both inside the top-10, per PFF.
The Jets have been desperately searching for a No. 1 corner since Darrelle Revis decided to hang up his cleats. Interestingly this offseason they may have found two in Reed and Sauce.