Jets cornerbacks Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed clear concussion protocol, will play vs. Giants

NEW YORK — The Jets will finally have their starting secondary back.

Cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed cleared concussion protocol and will play against the Giants on Sunday.

“It does allow flexibility on the defense, and it allows you to be more creative,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said about getting Gardner and Reed back. “Not more creative, but it allows you to do a couple of things that you normally wouldn’t without those two guys.”

The Jets played without Gardner and Reed during their last game, which was a 20-14 upset victory against the Eagles on Oct. 15. Reed missed two games after his concussion in the loss against the Chiefs on Oct. 1, but he stayed in the game and didn’t report the head injury. That would be a decision Reed later regretted.

Following the head injury, Reed suffered from dizziness, sensitivity to light, and some nausea. The bye last weekend allowed him the opportunity to feel better and be able to clear the protocol.

“I gained a new perspective,” Reed said. “Watching the team play without me and I was very proud of them. Especially the Eagles game and even the Denver game.

“As a defense, we’ve been playing phenomenal. It was no drop-off and that’s what TO [senior defensive assistant and cornerbacks coach Tony Oden], our coach, always emphasizes. There’s not going to be a drop-off, no matter who we got on the field.

“We definitely showed grit, we showed a lot. It was definitely fun watching the Philadelphia game live.”

While Gardner and Reed were sidelined, previous starter Bryce Hall took over for Reed on the outside against the Broncos and Eagles. The Jets also promoted cornerbacks Craig James and Tae Hayes from the practice squad.

Michael Carter II, usually a nickel cornerback, also played on the outside. He, along with the rest of the Jets secondary, helped force three Jalen Hurts interceptions. That included an interception by Tony Adams with less than two minutes left and that set up a Breece Hall eight-yard game-winning touchdown run with 1:46 remaining.

“We’ve been getting them ready from Day 1,” Oden said about Hall, James and Hayes playing against the Eagles. “Our philosophy here has been to coach them like they’re starters. They prepare like they’re starters, they might not get the starter reps, but you prepare them like that, so that’s part of it.

“How they study film and same mannerisms, the whole nine yards and those guys bought in. They’ve been doing a good job in the meeting room, they’ve always have and the guys in that room, there’s no flinch. Sometimes, you get a guy going into the game, their eyes get a little big, that wasn’t the case, they were ready.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of a group of young men to go into that situation against that type of team and to go out there and play the way they played. That’s a testament to them and the guys in the room and how they all rally around them.”

The news isn’t as good for Joe Tippmann as he will miss Sunday’s game due to a quad injury. Drafted as a center last April, Tippmann became the Jets starting right guard after Alijah Vera-Tucker moved from right guard to right tackle.

Veteran Wes Schweitzer is expected to replace Tippmann at right guard. The Jets offensive line has been a merry-go-round through the first six games.

After Duane Brown’s hip injury, the Jets moved Mekhi Becton to left tackle while sliding Tippmann and Vera-Tucker to right guard and right tackle. Then Vera-Tucker suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against the Broncos and Max Mitchell took over his starting spot.

“We’ve made some progress as an offense and I think the line has had a piece of that too,” Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter said. “We just have to keep going.

“Since we moved Mekhi to left, those guys have done a nice job figuring it out together. One of the good things in trying to find a bright spot among injuries is Max played a ton in camp from where we were from an injury standpoint.

“The good news is, this isn’t the first time they are working alongside each other.”