When the New York Jets selected Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick, the decision overshadowed another key offseason addition at cornerback.
Head coach Robert Saleh recommended that general manager Joe Douglas sign a former San Francisco 49ers fifth-rounder that he admitted he made a mistake on. As Niners’ defensive coordinator, the Jets’ HC had D.J. Reed Jr. in his system out west but saw him as a nickelback instead of an outside CB.
In Seattle, Reed proved Saleh and everyone else wrong after establishing himself as one of the league’s most consistent coverage specialists. Despite that, the free-agent acquisition has yet to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl — but could that change in 2022?
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Ex-Teammate Predicts Breakout Campaign
The former Super Bowl champion has turned analyst as he debates retirement and during a recent spot on the NFL Network, the experienced defender touted his old teammate as an under-the-radar “breakout star.”
“When you look at the offseason moves that the Jets made,” Wright explained, “this is my favorite one… He’s going to come in and change the dynamic of this locker room. He’s going to shift the culture of this New York Jets team. And when you see him on the football field — excellent in man-to-man coverage, he’s scrappy, he’s gritty, and the man’s confidence is through the roof.”
He concluded: “I loved playing with D.J. and to see him going there, pairing him with Sauce Gardner, it’s going to be fun to watch to see him have a breakout year.”
Wright also tweeted out the video segment, adding the context that he was predicting Reed would make the Pro Bowl in 2022.
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Don’t Sleep on Reed as a CB1
Most assume that Gardner will be the eventual number one corner on this roster and while that might be true, don’t be surprised if Reed shadows some of the elite opposing wideouts during their first season together.
Of course, it could just come down to where they line up. The veteran is excellent while playing right cornerback so you’ll likely see the rookie manning the left side.
According to Michael Nania of Jets X-Factor, the former Seahawk shut down the right side of the field over the past two seasons with zero touchdowns allowed and a passer rating against of 45.5 at RCB. In that position, Reed held receivers to a catch percentage of 47.5%, with only 4.7 yards per target.
Gardner didn’t allow any touchdowns during his college career at Cincinnati either, so this pairing could create a no-fly zone near the pylons.
Make no mistake, if Reed has his first Pro Bowl season and Gardner lives up to expectations as a rookie, this defense could be scary with the attacking mentality of Saleh’s system. In other words, if quarterbacks have nowhere to throw the football, this front four will produce a ton of sacks and/or turnovers in 2022 — something this defense sorely lacked last year.
Wright also made it clear that Reed’s acquisition would help the culture. Those close to him call him the ultimate competitor and you’ll definitely get that vibe when you hear the cornerback speak.
While commenting on the Jets’ 2022 opponents, Reed told NYJ team reporter Caroline Hendershot that he’s “looking forward to the whole schedule.” He reiterated: “I wanna play against the best, and we’re playing against a lot of good teams.”