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Aaron Rodgers tabs two Jets teammates to reach NFL-best stature: ‘Legit possibility’

Aaron Rodgers is ready to skip the standard three-year window for grading a draft class and give the Jets an A-plus for selecting both Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson in 2022. 

“We’ve got, at some point possibly, the best corner and the best receiver in the NFL,” Rodgers said. “It’s a legit possibility for those two guys. Maybe not this upcoming year — I still think Davante [Adams] is in a league of his own — but those two kids are so talented.” 

Takes one to know two.

It’s no surprise that the future is bright after Wilson (Offensive) and Gardner (Defensive) became the third set of teammates in NFL history to sweep the Rookie of the Year awards, but the four-time MVP’s voice carries weight after playing with or against all the greatest players of the last 18 years. 

Rodgers and Adams (now with the Raiders) were a prolific tandem that connected 624 times for 7,649 yards and 68 touchdowns in 108 games.

Aaron Rodgers speaks to reporters before Jets practice on June 9.
Noah K. Murray for the NY Post

Wilson should step into the shoes of Rodgers’ No. 1 target after managing 83 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns with the Jets’ four-quarterback carousel last season. 

“At least one time a practice he does something that I kind of look back at [the coaches] and whoever is watching and go, ‘Wow!’” Rodgers said. 

Gardner quickly attached himself to Rodgers’ side, as seen when they went to dinner alone together before sitting courtside at a Knicks playoff game.

Gardner came away that day excited that Rodgers would watch film with him and dissect how quarterbacks think — a sign that the second-year pro isn’t content with his initial success. 

“He’s handled it well — like we thought he would,” cornerbacks coach Tony Oden said. “He had a solid season, but last year was last year: ‘I can’t remember it.’ He has that type of mentality.” 

The next step in Gardner’s development is to force more turnovers.

He had a league-high 20 passes defended but just two interceptions last season. 

“The most important thing is that they don’t catch the ball,” Oden said. “If we start from that premise — if they don’t catch it, they don’t move the ball — those are all wins. The more opportunities he has, they will come. It’s not something we talk about a ton because we know it’s going to happen, but we do work on it.” 

Rodgers fit a throw into an impossibly tight window during Friday’s practice — the last of the spring for the Jets — that Wilson caught during red-zone drills. 

Sauce Gardner
Bill Kostroun for the New York Post

Training camp promises to pit Rodgers-Wilson against Gardner in a more competitive 11-on-11 setting than padless OTAs offered — similar to Rodgers-to-Adams passes with Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander in coverage for the Packers. 

Rodgers’ presence will force Gardner and the rest of the Jets’ secondary to play “with good technique and good alignment” because he is going to identify and expose tendencies, Oden said. Gardner — who argues that he didn’t allow the one touchdown he was charged with surrendering — already was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked cornerback last season. 

“How we take the next step is to talk about the things that give us the most issues,” Rodgers said. “To talk about release issues [caused by Gardner] and what’s hard on Garrett, and then Sauce telling Garrett what’s hard on him. I think right now, we have good communication with those guys. They battle, they compete.” 

Garrett Wilson makes a catch at Jets practice on June 9.
Noah K. Murray for the NY Post

Though Gardner is benefiting from returning to the same coordinator and position coach, Wilson made enough acrobatic catches during OTAs to leave a lasting first impression on not only Rodgers but also offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and receivers coach Zach Azzanni. 

“He’s starved for knowledge — understanding not just the routes but how he fits within each concept that we do,” Hackett said. “He’s got some amazing body control. His ability to get up on defenders and move them and then, even when the ball might not be perfectly placed, twerk his body into different positions is very special.” 

Gardner and Wilson are just two of the reasons that Rodgers calls his first six weeks with the Jets “about the most fun I’ve had in a while.” 

“You need the best players to be the best people on your team,” Rodgers said.