The NY Jets drafted Sauce Gardner with the fourth overall pick this past April with the hope and belief that he could become one of the league's best cornerbacks in due time.
They had high expectations for the rookie first-round pick, but I'm not sure even the Jets expected Gardner to be playing at this level this early in his career. Right now, you could already make the case that he's a top-five cornerback in the NFL.
Gardner and D.J. Reed make up the best statistical cornerback duo in the league, and although Reed was the one who got off to a hotter start, it's been Gardner who's assumed the role of the Jets' CB1 over the last few weeks.
The Jets are placing Gardner on an island and daring teams to beat him. And yet, they can't. The Jets asked Gardner to line up 1-on-1 in single press coverage against Courtland Sutton on 4th-and-3 with the game on the line this past weekend against the Denver Broncos.
The quarterback saw the single coverage and knew his wide receiver was running a go route toward the end zone. The Jets were in single-high safety coverage which made it nearly impossible for the safety to get there in time.
Gardner was on his own. He was placed in the most difficult position with the game on the line. The Jets showed their hand and dared the Broncos to beat them. They couldn't. Gardner knocked the ball away from Sutton and the Jets won the game.
It was the latest in a long line of spectacular plays Gardner has made this season. He's not some rookie developing into a star. He already is a star. He's already one of the best cornerbacks in football, and he hasn't even been 22 for two full months.
NY Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner's numbers speak for themselves
Among cornerbacks to play at least 80 percent of their team's coverage snaps, Gardner ranks second in Pro Football Focus pass-rush grade (82.9), second in yards allowed (151), and fourth in catches allowed (17).
He's allowed a catch on just 42.5 percent of his targets which is second-best among qualified cornerbacks. His 51.1 opposing passer rating ranks fourth while he leads all cornerbacks with 10 pass breakups through seven games. No other cornerback has more than seven.
Teams are trying Gardner. In fact, his 40 targets rank 12th among all cornerbacks in the NFL. The Jets are daring teams to beat Gardner and they're accepting the challenge. Sauce is just winning.
The fact that his target percentage is so high makes those other numbers even more impressive. Despite being targeted nearly six times per game, he's still among the NFL's best in yards and catches allowed.
The Jets believed that Gardner could be a future All-Pro when they drafted him. Well, the future is now.
Sauce Gardner is a superstar. The Jets know it. Other teams know it. And the numbers definitely know it.