Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner piled up plenty of awards in an impressive rookie season for the New York Jets.
Gardner became the first rookie cornerback to earn All-Pro honors in 41 years. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. He even had a sauce named after him by Buffalo Wild Wings.
Gardner, who was named the NFL’s top cornerback by The Associated Press, is striving to be even better this season.
“Everything I did already, I gotta put more work into it,” Gardner said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “There’s going to be somebody working as hard as I worked last year. I have to take it to the next level.”
A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at cornerback, making their selections based on current status entering the 2023 season. First-place votes were worth 10 points. Second through fifth-place votes were worth 5, 3, 2 and 1 points.
Gardner got six first-place votes. Patrick Surtain II, Jalen Ramsey and Jaire Alexander received the other three.
1. SAUCE GARDNER, New York Jets: Gardner quickly established himself as a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Quarterbacks posted a 53.9 passer rating throwing his way and only 45.9% of passes thrown at him were caught by the intended receiver.
2. PATRICK SURTAIN II, Denver Broncos: A first-round pick in 2021, Surtain lived up to his top-10 draft status with an All-Pro sophomore season. He consistently lines up against No. 1 receivers and keeps them in check. Surtain allowed fewer than 25 yards receiving in 12 games. He was named on every ballot and easily outdistanced Ramsey.
3. JALEN RAMSEY, Miami Dolphins: The three-time All-Pro will have a delayed start to his first season with the Dolphins after having knee surgery in July. Ramsey, a six-time Pro Bowl pick with the Jaguars and Rams, is considered the best run defender at his position.
4. JAIRE ALEXANDER, Green Bay Packers: Alexander rebounded nicely from an injury-plagued 2021 season by posting a career-best five interceptions last year. He made his second Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro for the second time. Alexander allowed just a 66.2 passer rating.
5. DARIUS SLAY, Philadelphia Eagles: Slay made his fifth Pro Bowl last season and teamed with second-team All-Pro James Bradberry to fortify Philadelphia’s secondary. Only 54.7% of passes thrown at Slay were caught.