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NFL - US Sports: Jets coach keeps Sauce bottled up

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh says nothing will be handed to first-round draft pick Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner, who has been a projected starter for the AFC East team ever since he was selected with fourth overall.

Saleh says Gardner, 10/1 to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year accolade, will have to earn the right to take first-team reps in practice - which are currently going to 2021 starter Bryce Hall and off-season free agent pick-up DJ Reed.

Sauce a standout for Bearcats

The rookie was expected to go straight to the top of the depth chart when he was taken as the first of the Jets' three day one draft picks.

Gardner was recognised as one of the two best cornerbacks in this year's draft class after he gave up zero touchdowns in his final year with the Cincinnati Bearcats, who reached the College Football Playoff.

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But Saleh has given Hall, who was good in coverage but failed to make enough plays on the ball last year, the first shot to lock down the starter's berth at the Jets' recent organized team activities.

"He still has to go earn it," Saleh said of Gardner, via The New York Post.

Saleh sticking with Hall

"Bryce has started. He's taking the one reps and it's not for show. You've got to go earn your right to go play football. Just because you were drafted in a certain spot doesn't mean anything."

There has been no doubt in Saleh's mind over Reed's credentials either, as the coach was familiar with the ex-Seattle Seahawks starter from their time together at the San Francisco 49ers from 2018-19.

Saleh added: "You see him in meetings, just the laser focus. There's no dozing off. There's no slouching. He is completely locked in."

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