Sauce Gardner confirms major defensive change for NY Jets in 2024

Sauce Gardner will have more responsibility in 2024
Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Sauce Gardner is the best cornerback in the NFL. That much was confirmed when the NY Jets star put together a sophomore campaign that was arguably even more impressive than his rookie year this past season.

Gardner has been named first-team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons in the NFL and has statistically been arguably the best cornerback the league has seen since coverage numbers have been reliably tracked.

Despite this, the Jets have frequently shied away from allowing Gardner to "follow" opposing wide receivers. Gardner sticks to his left side, D.J. Reed covers the right side of the field, and Michael Carter II mans the slot.

That could be about to change in 2024, however. In a recent appearance on “The Shop” alongside LeBron James, Travis Scott, Ice Spice, and Chad Johnson, Gardner revealed that he expects to follow opposing receivers more next season.

According to the All-Pro cornerback, he's already spoken to defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich about it.

"Everybody gets tired, but I want to travel. I’m going to be traveling this year, so stay tuned for that. I already talked to my defensive coordinator about it."

Sauce Gardner

Sauce Gardner expects to travel with opposing wide receivers in 2024

The entire notion of Gardner traveling or not traveling with opposing receivers is certainly a little overblown. Reed and Carter are among the better players at their respective positions as well, which is why the Jets have the luxury to deploy their defense in the way that they do.

That said, there are situations where it probably makes sense for Gardner to be matched up with the opposing team's No. 1 wide receiver on any given play. Gardner insists that will be the case moving forward.

One of the lone legitimate criticisms against Gardner since entering the league has been that he doesn't travel with opposing star receivers in his Jets' defense — much like the vast majority of defensive systems in the NFL.

If Gardner is to be believed, even his staunchest critics won't have much ammunition anymore. The comparisons to Darrelle Revis can finally hold a little more weight.

Gardner became the first cornerback in the PFF-tracking era (2006-present) to allow fewer than 260 yards, be targeted fewer than 55 times, and play at least 1,000 defensive snaps in 2023. He was every bit as dominant in 2023 as he was as a rookie.

The Jets trust Sauce Gardner unconditionally — so much so that they're willing to adjust their defensive philosophy to accommodate his generational talents. Sauce Island, anyone?