Jets 1st-Rounder Flashes at Minicamp: ‘No Denying How Talented He Is’

New York Jets fans

Getty New York Jets fans celebrate a selection at the 2022 NFL draft.

New York Jets minicamp feels different this spring. Last offseason, it was all about the offense as Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter stole the majority of the hype at practice but 2022 has been a battle.

The daily theme seems to be phrases like back-and-forth, give-and-take, and iron sharpening iron. Wilson and the offense have had a few really comfortable days and a few really rocky ones — and that just goes to show that this roster is more balanced in year two under head coach Robert Saleh.

The defense was not as good as fans expected it to be in 2021. It finished dead last in the end-of-year rankings and the offense wasn’t much better. Now, there’s more ebb and flow, and day two of minicamp was the perfect example of that.

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Wilson’s Hot Start Is Dampened by ‘Sauce’

Wilson was electric at the start of practice on Wednesday, going six-for-nine with a couple of deep gainers over the secondary — namely Bryce Hall and the backup cornerbacks. Jets X-Factor’s Robby Sabo noted that gunslinger even caught Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner one time during 11-on-11 drills.

“Zach Wilson just got Sauce Gardner,” Sabo tweeted. “Completion vs. zone, Sauce in a deeper-type zone, and Wilson showcases nice anticipation in direction of [the] sideline. [Wilson] used Sauce’s leverage against him (hips turned inside). This is the really good QB stuff.”

Later in the day, the first-round cornerback got his revenge during a red-zone drill.

The Athletic’s Connor Hughes had the coverage: “Sauce Gardner interception. He picked off Wilson in the red zone, 7-on-7 drill. He then ran it 100 yards back to the end zone. Pick-six.”

As much as fans want Wilson to succeed, they’ve also been waiting for a moment like this from Gardner and that’s the catch-20 of camp practices. Both sides can’t always win. If one does, your team is likely imbalanced or flawed.

As Wilson cooled toward the end of practice, Gardner got hot, and the rookie played a major role in the offense’s last-minute troubles according to Hughes.

“Sauce Gardner is getting going,” he informed. “Full-team, two-minute drill. Impressive pass breakup of deep Wilson shot for [Corey] Davis. Looked like Davis had a step but Gardner closed it, jumped up, [and] ripped [the] ball away. There’s no denying how talented Gardner is.”

It was a fun day and a mixed bag for both sides, but it’s nice to see Gardner shine a little while playing with the first-team unit — which he’s been on ever since a mild D.J. Reed injury. Once Reed is back, don’t be surprised if Gardner sticks with the ones as Hall is relegated to the second-team unit.

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Day 2 Notes From Minicamp

In case you missed it, here were some more notes from day two.

“I think the unquestioned star of the summer was receiver Jeff Smith,” wrote Hughes after the depth receiver had another terrific day. “He worked in with the first team and made plays each day. Garrett Wilson started coming along the last two days, too.”

Keep in mind that this was a passing camp with no run plays or contact, but Elijah Moore and Tyler Conklin were also mentioned by ESPN’s Rich Cimini for a handful of catches each. Don’t forget fellow playmaker Denzel Mims, who has had his moments. Today featured an “acrobatic catch” from the Baylor product that different members of the beat highlighted, but it was Smith and Gardner who stole the show.

Brian Costello of the New York Post agreed that, like this practice, it’s been an “up and down spring” for Zach Wilson. Consistency will be the name of the game during the preseason.

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