The Jets’ trio of first-round picks are getting their first training camp tests | Sport

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sous Gardner was relaxing on a plane ride from the NFL draft in Las Vegas to his new playing home in New Jersey when the enormity of what was happening began to sink in.

The former Cincinnati cornerback was the #4 overall pick by the New York Jets. Sitting with him were quarterback Garrett Wilson, the 10th overall pick out of Ohio State, and Jermaine Johnson, the 26th pick out of Florida State.

They were three friends and the first participants – they went to help turn the fortunes of a frustrated franchise.

“We really felt like we were all supposed to be on the same team,” Gardner said Saturday.

Gardner and Johnson worked out together in Texas before the draft in April, along with, among others, Brice Hall (second round) and Michael Clemons (fourth round), who went on to be selected by the Jets.

“It’s a blessing for us to be on the same team,” Gardner said. “I don’t think I’m just a lucky charm, but there’s always something unique about every team I’m on.”

Like his Bearcats team, which made the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history last season before losing to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

“This program reminds me a lot of Cincinnati,” Gardner said. “And I think we’re going to make some big changes this year.”

The Jets and their fans are counting on it.

New York went 11 seasons without making the playoffs, the longest postseason drought in the league. The Jets are coming off a 4-13 campaign, the first under coach Robert Saleh, but their own an impressive catch was a dizzying organization.

It was just the second time in franchise history in the modern draft era — since 1970 — that the Jets made more than two picks in the first round and the first time since a record four picks in 2000.

Six picks after general manager Joe Douglas took Gardner to fill a huge need in the secondary, he gave quarterback Zach Wilson an explosive playmaker in Garrett Wilson. He wasn’t done, though, making a deal with Tennessee to move back into the first round and take Johnson to increase the pass rush.

Now, all three players will be linked forever — with high hopes that their Jets legacies will be marked by more wins.

“I know none of us have a problem with those expectations,” Johnson said.

There is a certain swagger with which all three carry themselves. Gardner’s diamond-encrusted “SAUCE” locket on draft night was a stark display of this. Their confidence on the field belies their rookie status.

“We’re all equally committed to being the best teammates we can be,” Johnson said. “You know, we’re rookies, so we need to earn, especially to have a say in this team. And that comes with doing things the right way, giving 110% and being a good teammate.

“So, I mean, we’re all on this journey, and we’ll see what happens.”

So far so good through four practices in camp.

Gardner was solid in the rotation with Bryce Hall competing for the starting spot opposite DJ Reid.

“I mean, the boy is a dog, he really is a dog,” said Garrett Wilson, who has wrestled Gardner several times this summer. “He’s very agile, has good hands and often puts himself in the right scenario.”

Wilson was one of the early standouts on offense, making some impressive catches and developing quick chemistry with his quarterback.

“He’s very, very athletic,” Saleh said. “He has incredible body control and strength. He has great hands. He’s explosive in and out of breaks. He is very shaky in and out of breaks. He’s talented.”

Johnson alternates with the Jets’ deepest and arguably best unit, a defensive line that includes seasoned veterans like Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers and youngsters like Johnson, who had 12 sacks last season season and was the main ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s phenomenal, bro,” Williams said of Johnson. “He’s a very loud guy, a very explosive guy, a very talented guy. … He, bro, is an animal.”

Of course, this is just practice. And even the first preseason game is weeks away.

But Gardner, Wilson and Johnson had their first tests — while leaning on each other like colleagues in the first round.

“It takes a lot of pressure off because you have people to talk to who are going through the same thing you’re going through, the same expectations,” Wilson said. “When you’re a first-round pick, you’re expected to come in and make an impact right away.

“I feel like we hold each other to high standards. But we also know that this is all new for each of us, and we can fight off each other, talk to each other. And it was really good, probably.”

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