How did Jets rookies perform during the first half of the 2022 NFL season?

Sauce Gardner celebrates interception vs Bills, teammates in background blurry
Sauce Gardner celebrates interception vs Bills, teammates in background blurry

The Jets have obviously exceeded expectations as they head to the bye week with a 6-3 record and their rookies have been a major part of that success.

Let’s recap how each of their draft picks performed in the first half of the season.

CB Sauce Gardner

At cornerback, the fourth overall pick has been an overnight sensation. He leads the league in passes defended and already has a Defensive Player of the Week and multiple Defensive Rookie of the Week awards to his name. He’s a viable contender to go to the Pro Bowl and might even earn some All-Pro votes if his strong play continues.

Comparisons to Darrelle Revis are inevitable, but Gardner is actually ahead of where Revis was during his rookie season. Revis didn’t intercept a pass until his eighth game and gave up at least four catches in nine of his first 11 appearances before turning the corner late in his rookie year. Four catches are the most Gardner has given up in a game so far, and he already has two interceptions.

WR Garrett Wilson

Wilson exploded onto the scene with a huge game against the Cleveland Browns in his second ever NFL appearance. The 10th overall pick had over 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the last-minute game winner.

In recent weeks, Wilson went a little more under-the-radar, as he had caught just 10 passes for 100 yards on 19 targets over a four-week span. However, he broke out again with another 100-yard game against the New England Patriots and led the Jets once more with 92 yards on eight catches against the Buffalo Bills. He’s currently on track to rack up almost 1,000 receiving yards and is a realistic contender to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Sep 18, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) celebrates after catching a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Sep 18, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) celebrates after catching a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.

DE Jermaine Johnson II

There hasn’t been as much hype surrounding Johnson as some of the other rookies, but he’s quietly done a solid job with 2.5 sacks and some good play against the run in six games. Johnson plays at a position where the Jets are deep, so he sees action on less than 20 defensive snaps per game, and also missed three games due to a knee injury. However, he is performing well and has a bright future ahead of him.

RB Breece Hall

It was a devastating loss for the Jets when Hall suffered a torn ACL in the seventh game of the season. After a slow start, Hall had emerged as the early favorite to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and a sure-fire Pro Bowl candidate as he racked up almost 700 yards from scrimmage and scored five touchdowns. His combination of speed, vision, power and elusiveness coupled with his ability to contribute in the passing game gives Hall the potential to be one of the league’s best running backs.

If the Jets can get a healthy Hall back in 2023, that will add another dimension to an offense that will have to spend the rest of the 2022 season figuring out ways to be productive without him.

TE Jeremy Ruckert

Ruckert is probably the only draft pick that you would call a disappointment at this stage of the season, although expectations were never high for the third-rounder after he missed most of the offseason. He has been a healthy scratch in four of the nine games so far.

Although he hasn’t caught a pass yet and has only played seven offensive snaps since Week 2, the Jets probably view Ruckert as more of a development project for next season. Opportunities for playing time will likely remain scant unless either C.J. Uzomah or Tyler Conklin gets injured.

OT Max Mitchell

Mitchell, like Hall, is currently on Injured Reserve. However, he should be able to return this season, possibly even shortly after the bye week. He wasn’t expected to play much this season but stepped in for the injured George Fant and blew expectations out of the water in his four starts.

Cedric Ogbuehi is currently manning the right tackle position and Fant is also due to return at some point, so it’s not certain Mitchell will step back into the starting lineup once he’s healthy again. However, he arguably deserves another chance based on his play earlier in the season and his long-term outlook is promising.

DE Micheal Clemons

The final 2022 draft pick has been a pleasant surprise as Clemons has been getting rotational snaps on defense and playing a role on special teams following an impressive camp and preseason.

He’s been solid against the run, picked up his first career sack against New England, and blocked a critical punt against the Green Bay Packers. Clemons looks like he could be a valuable contributor in the years ahead.