Football

Rest of Jets season is all about seeing what Zach Wilson can do

Four weeks ago, the Jets were preparing to face the Miami Dolphins and decided to start veteran Joe Flacco at quarterback rather than rookie Zach Wilson, who was on the verge of coming back from a knee injury.

“Miami has a dynamic coverage system as it pertains to defense with zero and all the different coverages they run,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said at the time. “Joe’s kind of been there, done that, and just kind of a steadying experience that we thought would put us in the best position to win.”

Four weeks later, the Jets are still thinking about who puts them in the best position to win — just not in 2021. Wilson will start this week, his fourth game since coming back from the knee injury, with an eye on the future rather than the present.

Wilson has had two duds (Texans, Saints) and one of his better games (Eagles) since he came back. Now, he’s going to face that Miami defense with its “dynamic” system with coach Brian Flores either blitzing or faking the blitz on nearly every play.

This portion of the 3-10 Jets season is all about seeing what Wilson can do in the team’s final stretch. Can he gain some confidence heading into the offseason? Can he learn some things now that will help him later?

Saleh has spoken about the organization’s plan and his belief that the team has a bright future a lot lately because there is nothing about the present worth talking about. Wilson’s development is the biggest piece of that.

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Jets quarterback Zach Wilson looks on during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021 at MetLife Stadium.
Zach Wilson
Robert Sabo/New York Post

“Zach is the future of this organization,” Saleh said Monday. “He’s the No. 2 pick. He’s extremely talented. He has a bright head on his shoulders. He’s a phenomenal young man. These are the types of games he has to go through. He has to learn how to play football in the NFL. He has to get these reps.”

Wilson has not done much lately to inspire confidence that he is the answer for the Jets. Outside of a first half against the Eagles and a few nice throws against the Titans in early October, there has not been that moment that made you believe the Jets got it right.

Now, it is early. He has played nine games. No one should be making any pronouncements about Wilson yet, but it is fair to want to see some evidence that he is The Guy. He needs a game out of these last four that he dominates and makes you believe.

Saleh points to the future and how the Jets can “flip” things around. He talks about how the team can end the playoff drought that is now at 11 years and counting. Wilson is the key to the whole thing. Look at the teams that are doing what Saleh is talking about currently. The Cardinals and Bengals are great examples of franchises who had some rough seasons and are now potential playoff teams. The keys to those turnarounds are Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow. Yes, the Cardinals and Bengals did a good job surrounding them with talent but the quarterbacks are the engine that make those teams go.

Murray was the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Burrow showed a lot of promise before a knee injury ended his rookie season in 2020. It’s time to see some similar signs from Wilson.

“I think the reps he’s seeing, the defenses he’s seeing, being able to see a [Saints defensive coordinator] Dennis Allen defense and all the different things they do and then being able to see a Flores defense and being able to go through all those things, he is only growing off of all of this,” Saleh said.

That is what this is about now — growth and development. Wilson does not give the Jets the best chance to win Sunday in Miami. Flacco or Mike White would do that. But Wilson gives the Jets the best chance to win in 2022 and beyond.

“With Zach,” Saleh said, “this is going to be a great opportunity for him to take another step in the direction we need to get this organization going.”

That would mean more than another win in an already lost season.

Artmotion U.S.A

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