The Jets’ turnaround on defense was rewarded with three players being named to The Associated Press All-Pro teams.
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner earned first-team All-Pro honors and linebacker C.J. Mosley made the second team.
Gardner is the first rookie cornerback to be selected to the first team since Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott after the 1981 season.
“That’s a big deal to me,” Gardner told The AP. “It was one of my goals before training camp. It’s something I pray for. I worked so hard for it. It’s a true blessing, for sure.”
All three Jets also were voted to the Pro Bowl this season.
“First Rookie CB to get 1st Team All-Pro for the first time in 41 years,” Gardner tweeted. “Thank you God None of this would be possible without you and the great group of guys on our defense; especially the D-LINE. This for Detroit Product of Detroit King Highschool.”
The Jets made tremendous strides on defense this season. They were ranked last in total defense last year and finished fourth this season. The emergence of Williams and the arrival of Gardner were big reasons, along with Mosley’s leadership and consistent strong play.
In Williams and Gardner, the Jets have two young players who should be teammates for a long time. They’re the first Jets teammates to make the first team since Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold in 2010.
Williams, the No. 3 pick in 2019 from Alabama, had a breakout year. He was a dominant player on defense and led the Jets with 12 sacks. He is eligible for a contract extension — and his price tag may have just gone up.
Williams likely will command more than $20 million per year. He said he would like to have a deal done before the start of the offseason program or he will skip OTAs.
Williams finished second to Kansas City’s Chris Jones in sacks by an interior defensive lineman. Jones, also a first-team All-Pro selection, had 15 1⁄2 sacks.
Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick out of Cincinnati, made an immediate impact for the Jets. He led the NFL with 20 passes defensed and had two interceptions. He was named on all 50 ballots and received 43 first-place votes.
“First team ALL PRO as a rookie, that’s legendary!” Jets cornerback D.J. Reed tweeted. “Congrats bro, you deserve that.”
Entering the season, Gardner said his three individual goals were to make the Pro Bowl (check), be named first-team All-Pro (check) and win Defensive Rookie of the Year (to be determined). He is the leading candidate for top defensive rookie.
“If I can get all three of those,” Gardner said, “God is good.”
Mosley, a Jets captain, had his usual strong season. He led the team with 158 tackles, which ranked ninth in the league.