Jets’ Joe Douglas ‘excited’ about how rookies are performing

It is possible the 5-3 Jets have arrived as a contender ahead of schedule.

But after a 2022 draft that landed several difference-makers, the future of the Jets looks brighter than the present.

“There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about some of the young players,” GM Joe Douglas said over Zoom on Tuesday, after the trade deadline passed. “I think a lot of that has to do with Robert [Saleh], his staff, and also some of the great veterans that we’ve added to be great mentors in the locker room.”

The Jets’ draft began with Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who was picked fourth overall and stepped in immediately as a shutdown cornerback. He already has limited the likes of Tyreek Hill and Ja’Marr Chase and drawn comparisons to Darrelle Revis.

“He has a charisma, and guys tend to gravitate towards him just because he’s authentic,” Douglas said of the 22-year-old. “He’s the real deal. There’s nothing fake about his confidence, his toughness, his anything.”

Jets general manager Joe Douglas (inset) said he is excited about the development of rookies such as Sauce Gardner (inset).
Jets general manager Joe Douglas (inset) said he is excited about the development of rookies such as Sauce Gardner (inset).
Getty Images; Bill Kostroun

Following Gardner were wide receiver Garrett Wilson (No. 10), who exploded for six catches for 115 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots; defensive end Jermaine Johnson (No. 26), who has been limited by an ankle injury but should see more time following the trade of Jacob Martin; and running back Breece Hall (No. 36), who might have been their best offensive player before he tore his ACL in Week 7.

“It’s been fun to watch them come in since April,” Douglas said of the draft class. “How they’ve grown, how their confidence has grown. Some guys came in with unbelievable confidence, with real authentic, genuine confidence.

“We’ve committed to playing a lot of young players, and some teams wouldn’t do that. … The exuberance, the energy these guys bring every week — you can feel it, it’s palpable.”

Douglas said offensive lineman Mekhi Becton, who underwent surgery on his right knee — the same knee that required season-ending surgery last year, too — has been back in Florham Park rehabbing with the Jets.

“I know his focus is coming back next year in the best shape he can be and as healthy as he can be,” Douglas said of the 11th-overall pick in 2020. “We feel very optimistic that he’s going to be full strength for OTAs.”

Douglas said Hall (torn ACL) and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker (torn triceps), who were both lost during the Week 7 win in Denver, have not undergone surgery yet.

“Two young players that were having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons — you could argue All-Pro-caliber seasons,” Douglas said. ”Our docs are very optimistic that these guys are going to come back full strength next year and hit the ground running.”