The 2022 season didn’t end how the Jets were hoping. They went from a 7-4 record and thinking about the playoffs to losing six straight to finish 7-10 and keep the NFL’s longest playoff drought intact.
A lot of that had to do with the quarterback position. We’ve talked plenty about how New York is planning to fix that after hiring Nathaniel Hackett as the newest offensive coordinator. Do you know what wasn’t a problem this year for Gang Green? Their rookie players. They were fantastic.
If running back Breece Hall didn’t suffer a season-ending injury, he’d probably be in this discussion, too. But for this week, we’re talking about Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson. These two dudes are finalists for Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year. You’d imagine the chances of them both bringing home their respective hardware is pretty good. How often in NFL history has a team done that, though?
According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, just twice:
#Jets will pull off a rare “daily double” tonight if Sauce Gardner + Garrett Wilson win NFL Defensive and Offensive Rookies of the Year. Has happened only twice in history:
1967: #Lions: CB Lem Barney, RB Mel Farr
2017: #Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, RB Alvin Kamara pic.twitter.com/XP3fIlTLoU
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) February 9, 2023
They’ve been among the best rookies at their positions for most of the year. It’d only be fitting to finish it with a bang and make some history in the process, right?
Gardner’s first year in the league ended with First-Team All-Pro honors and a trip to the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas. He also accumulated 20 pass deflections and mostly shut down every elite receiver facing him week after week. His competition for this award includes Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen.
As for Wilson, he did a lot with very little. He lined up at wide receiver and looked in at four different quarterbacks under center throughout the year. This included Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson, Mike White, and Chris Streveler. Despite that, he pulled in 83 catches on 147 targets for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns. Those 1,100 yards are also a Jets rookie record, breaking the mark previously held by Keyshawn Johnson. The other finalists for this honor include Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker and 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.
We don’t need Gardner and Wilson to win these awards to know the Jets have something special with these two. It’d be a great way to get the offseason started, though. What could be next? A veteran quarterback to help them get over the hump would be nice.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.