Jets Lead NFL in Prestigious Early-Season Honor

Breece Hall, Sauce Gardner

Getty New York Jets rookies Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson II, Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson and Micheal Clemons celebrate a touchdown (left to right).

It’s not hard to see that some of the New York Jets’ best players in 2022 are their rookies, and we’re only four games in.

The expression — the future is bright — has been overused by this franchise for the better part of a decade but for the first time in a long time, it actually is. It’s not just Jets fans that are noticing, either.

The Athletic dropped the early-season (first quarter) leaders for their All-Rookie roster, and Gang Green led the NFL with five prospects that were either named as starters or honorable mention backups. The next highest teams were the Houston Texans and rival New England Patriots with four each.

Sauce Gardner & Breece Hall Headline 5-Man Group

We’ll get to the other three selections in a minute, but the only two Jets that led their position as the current starters were cornerback Sauce Gardner and running back Breece Hall.

The Athletic’s draft staff explained Hall’s nomination alongside Texans RB Dameon Pierce:

Pierce (Round 4, No. 107) stood out as a potential draft steal the second he slipped to Day 3… Although Hall has been a more prominent receiving threat (15 catches for 113 yards and a TD on 27 targets), he hasn’t seen Pierce’s volume of carries. That might be changing, though — Hall had 17 rushes in a Week 4 win at Pittsburgh. All told, he’s averaging 5.5 yards per touch (rushing and receiving).

As for Gardner — who teammate D.J. Reed Jr. referred to as “elite” after Week 4 — The Athletic voiced that he and Texans CB Derek Stingley Jr. were “unanimous selections.”

“Those top two choices of Gardner and Stingley — picks 4 and 3 [in the draft], respectively — haven’t forced a turnover yet, but quarterbacks already are approaching them with caution,” they continued later. “Gardner has five pass breakups, and Stingley came out of the blocks with a combined 15 tackles and three PBUs over Weeks 1 and 2. They’ll each be a centerpiece of a rebuild.”

The Jets nailed these two cornerstone selections in April, adding a dangerous playmaker on each side of the football, and we’re only just getting started.

Garrett Wilson, Jermaine Johnson & Micheal Clemons Earn ‘Honorable Mentions’

Only two members of the Jets’ seven-man class were missing from this article, tight end Jeremy Ruckert — who has barely played behind Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah — and right tackle Max Mitchell.

The latter has had his ups and downs but has performed admirably overall, considering he was thrown straight into the fire unexpectedly. Unfortunately, Mitchell was the latest NYJ offensive tackle to go down with an injury in Week 4 and he’ll reportedly “miss several weeks” of action, stalling his development.

Back to the All-Rookie team, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive linemen Jermaine Johnson II and Micheal Clemons all made the “honorable mention” section of their position — which basically corresponds to a second-team vote.

“As expected, wide receiver was, by far, the toughest position to narrow down for our initial All-Rookie Team,” the draft experts wrote. “It was painful to leave Wilson (20 receptions, 255 yards, two TDs) off the list.”

Three wideouts were named starters ahead of Wilson: Ohio State teammate Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints), Jahan Dotson (Washington Commanders) and Drake London (Atlanta Falcons). This is shaping up to be a very strong class at the position.

At edge rusher, The Athletic noted that Johnson “shouldn’t be slept on.” Although Travon Walker (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions) were given the early nod at the starting honors due to total production, backups “J.J.” and George Karlaftis (Kansas City Chiefs) had more explosive win rates in rotational roles.

Clemons was not discussed by the staff, but he was listed as a second-team “defensive lineman” behind Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Davis and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Logan Hall. The fourth-rounder has all the looks of a diamond in the rough find for Jets general manager Joe Douglas in 2022.

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