Before Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Zach Wilson was 4-0 in his four starts this season.
In the 18th game of his career, Wilson looked like a rookie during the 22-17 loss against the Patriots.
Although Wilson passed for a career high in passing yards (355), he completed 20 of 41 passes as he had two touchdowns and three interceptions. A day after the loss, Robert Saleh confirmed he and the rest of the team continues to believe in the second-year quarterback.
“I got full confidence in Zach, we all do,” Saleh said. “It isn’t like he hasn’t had bad games before and he has stepped up and followed it with good days.
“With the way he preps and the way he practices and the questions that he asks, we have faith that he will continue to find ways to get better.”
Despite the Jets’ 5-3 record, Wilson hasn’t played well since returning from a bone bruise and a meniscus injury. He has thrown for 1,048 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions.
While he went three consecutive games without a turnover, Wilson reverted to his old rookie ways against the Patriots. His first interception was thrown off his back foot and the ball flew over the head of running back Ty Johnson. The pass landed in the hands of Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley with 46 seconds left in the second quarter up 10-3. That allowed the Patriots to get a Nick Folk field goal before halftime.
The second and third were picked off by safety Devin McCourty. First, down 19-10 with 2:32 left in the third quarter, Wilson tried to throw the ball when he didn’t see anyone open, but he sidearmed the pass to the sideline and McCourty intercepted it.
The last interception was on a pass Wilson should have thrown away, but he just tossed it into traffic and McCourty came down with his second interception of the day. After the game, Wilson said he gets tired of throwing the ball away when he scrambles out of the pocket.
“Every time I get out of the pocket it just gets frustrating to just throw the ball away, and that’s what I’ve done the last four weeks to put us in a good position, to not turn the ball over, and for us to win,” Wilson said.
“I need to be able to keep doing that when something’s not there. It gets old getting out and not seeing anything there. And it’s really only the last one that I was really forcing, the one before that I was truly trying to throw that ball away but I should have thrown it away sooner before [Matthew] Judon got that close to me.
“It’s plays that the Patriots didn’t have any effect on. I can’t do that.”
Mike White was the Jets backup quarterback yesterday since Joe Flacco was inactive. Moving forward, White will be the Jets backup quarterback as the coaching staff wants to see what they have in the fifth-year player.
But Saleh didn’t consider benching Wilson for White at any time against the Patriots.
“I think Zach is going to continue to get better,” Saleh said. “I think he’s a lot better than he was a year ago. Like everyone, we can look in the mirror and the decisions that we’ve all made yesterday. We all took turns if it was an ill-advised penalty, special teams play, protection, or whatever it is we all have to get better.
“Zach is the quarterback, he has the ball in his hands. He’s the most obvious in terms of being critical, but he’s gotten a lot better. I expect him to get better. Do I expect it all to be clean, no, every quarterback has his days.
“But he’s our quarterback because we think he’s going to get better and continue to prove while he’s the No. 2 pick.”
Currently, the Jets would be one of the three wild cards if the playoffs started today as the season heads toward Week 9. Gang Green will have two critical games coming up against the Bills and at the Patriots after the team’s bye in Week 10.
With Breece Hall (torn ACL) out for the season, the Jets will have to rely more on Wilson’s arm if they’re going to make a run at the postseason. They did acquire James Robinson last week from the Jaguars. How long will it take for him to be more of a focus in the Jets’ offense is the major question.
As with any quarterback, teams hope they begin to show a jump in terms of development from Year 1 to Year 2, but Wilson hasn’t necessarily shown that with his inability to read defenses and his decision-making down the field.
Last summer, Wilson demonstrated his leadership by organizing a retreat to Idaho so he could work with his offense before training camp. Coaches have also spoken about how much more vocal Wilson was compared to his first season. However, the seven weeks missed due to injury appeared to hurt his development as he has had his good and bad moments under center.
Wilson did lead the Jets to a comeback win against the Steelers on Oct. 2 in his first start of the year. While the Jets haven’t lost because of him outside of Sunday’s Patriots game, they’re certainly not winning because of him either.
The Jets have nine games remaining in the season to evaluate if Wilson is the possible quarterback of the future. If he continues his uneven play and the Jets miss the playoffs, the team could look to a veteran next season to compete with him as they have a roster ready to win.
For now, Wilson’s teammates still have the utmost confidence that Wilson will continue to get better.
“He has always owned up to his mistakes,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He owns up to everything that he does when he does talk to us and we say what’s up in the building. He also says he needs to do better.
“He’s an NFL player and he knows exactly what’s going on and what winning football looks like and he knows what losing football looks like. When it comes to making sure his head is in the right place or having his back, everyone in the building has his back.
“Everyone knows what he’s capable of and he knows what he is capable of. We are all going to need each other at some point this season.”