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Jets CB Sauce Gardner wins AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year 

The New York Jets hit a home run with their rookie class, adding building blocks on both sides of the ball, and made it a clean sweep of Rookie of the Year honors.

Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner captured The Associated Press 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year award on Thursday at NFL Honors, following up on teammate Garrett Wilson's achievement of top offensive rookie honors earlier in the evening.

Gardner took home rookie of the year honors by a considerable margin with 242 points and 46 first-place votes. Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson finished second with 129 points, getting three first-place votes. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen was third with 73 points and one first-place vote.

Gardner said before the 2022 campaign that he was ready to earn the "Sauce" nickname. The rookie justified it before the first month was out.

The Gang Green rookie corner was a lockdown defender from the moment he stepped onto the field. At 6-foot-3, Gardner owns the size and length to battle bigger wideouts, the speed to make up ground when the ball is in the air, and the innate ability to play the ball.

A starter from Week 1, the Cincinnati product led the NFL with 20 passes defensed, generated two interceptions and compiled 75 tackles. Sauce allowed just two TDs, per Next Gen Stats, and earned a -28.8 target EPA, second-best among all corners in 2022. The rookie allowed a 48.1 completion percentage and a -8.4 completion percentage over expected, per NGS, best among rookie corners.

Gardner displayed superior smarts for a rookie corner, a position notoriously difficult for first-year players transitioning from the college level. His ability to pester receivers and react to the ball upon its arrival allowed was impressive from the jump.

In the Jets' scheme, Gardner wasn't asked to travel with No. 1 receivers but locked down one side of the field. During a Week 15 bout against Detroit, the Lions showed the rookie the ultimate respect by not targeting the DB on 66 snaps. Garner's 38 coverage snaps that day were the fourth-most without a target by an outside cornerback in a game since 2017, per Next Gen Stats. The message was clear: Try elsewhere.

In a ballyhooed rookie campaign, Gardner earned first-team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl selection. Thursday, he added hardware to his trophy case with the DROY award.

The NFL's next lockdown corner has arrived. His name is Sauce.

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