ahmad gardner mad lions challenge him

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New York Jets rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was shown the ultimate sign of respect by the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and he was not happy about it. 

The Lions did not throw one pass in the direction of a wide receiver that Gardner was covering in Detroit’s 20-17 win, choosing to completely remove him from the game. 

Gardner said on Monday that he took that personally. 

“I wasn’t targeted yesterday, not once,” Gardner told the New York media on Monday. “I don’t know what their mentality is or mindset is when they go up against us. Yesterday, I wasn’t targeted. I take that kind of personal because I actually wanted to make a bigger and a better impact on the game, especially going against my hometown team.”

The Lions’ mindset should have been obvious: They wanted to win the game, and they knew that throwing the ball in Gardner’s direction might have negatively impacted those chances.

Even though Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, has played in just 14 games this season he has already become one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. And there is no greater sign of respect for a cornerback than an opposing team not throwing the ball in their direction. It is truly the definition of what a shutdown cornerback is. 

It’s also why some of the league’s best cover guys do not always lead the league in interceptions or even finish anywhere near the top. Nobody throws at them, presenting fewer opportunities to make plays.

For as great as Gardner already is, he has just two interceptions on the season. And that is not uncommon for cover guys. 

Some of the NFL’s best all-time cover corners were never big interception players. Deion Sanders, perhaps the best cover corner in NFL history, never once led the league in interceptions during his Hall of Fame career and had a lot of seasons where he had only a couple. Rod Woodson did not start putting up big interception numbers until he moved to safety later in his career. Darrelle Revis, one of the best shutdown corners in the recent era, rarely intercepted more than a couple of passes and never had more than six in any season. 

The irony of the position is that if you are too good at it, you never really get a chance to make a game-changing play. Gardner is already finding that out just 14 games into his career. He better get used to it. 

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