FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It hasn’t even been a month since Zach Wilson joined the Jets as their No. 2 overall pick, but the former BYU star already is getting a feel for life in the New York metropolitan area.
He took in an Islanders playoff game along with several of his newly acquainted offensive linemen, discovered that Long Island has some pretty sweet beaches, ate at some New York City restaurants and got a taste of the New Jersey driving thing.
"There’s some aggressive drivers here," the 21-year-old rookie said Thursday on a Zoom call after participating in an Organized Team Activity day at the team’s training complex. "Getting cut off everywhere you go."
Wilson is not only adapting quite nicely to his new environs, but he’s getting comfortable with the football part, too. Coach Robert Saleh said earlier Thursday that Wilson "is relentless in his want for knowledge," and it’s already showing on the field. Granted, it’s still far too early in the process to make any definitive judgments about how well Wilson will adjust to the pro game, but he certainly looked at ease in running the offense throughout Thursday’s practice.
One throw in particular stood out: With newly acquired wide receiver Keelan Cole lined up to the left of the formation, Wilson called for the snap and dropped back in the pocket as Cole ran up the sideline with single coverage. Wilson placed the ball perfectly so that only Cole was in position to make the catch, and the receiver brought the ball down and raced into the open field.
Again, it’s early, it’s just 7-on-7 and Wilson is still more than three months away from his NFL debut against the quarterback he’s replacing – Sam Darnold of the Carolina Panthers. But Wilson showed the arm strength, the touch and the mobility the Jets coveted during the pre-draft evaluation process that prompted them to go in a new direction at their most important position.
"It’s a day at a time," Wilson said. "It’s Day 3, everybody’s playing faster, not necessarily thinking so much, and that’s making it more comfortable for everybody."
Wilson is under no illusions about the difficulty of what's ahead.
"It’s going to be a challenge," he said. "It’s going to be a process, and I’ll take it day by day and keep learning and doing your best."
Wilson was heartened by Saleh’s description of his quest for football knowledge, but noted that the root of his intensity lies with those around him.
"I really have a strong passion for this game," he said. "I don’t want to let my teammates down. I’m going to do everything I can to be prepared."
Saleh also offered a unique analogy about learning football at this early stage. It’s sort of like learning by osmosis – with Cheerios.
"If you’re watching TV and eating a bowl of cereal, you’re not sitting there thinking about lifting the spoon up to your mouth," Wilson said, relating Saleh’s conversation. "That just naturally happens. You start to pick up certain things."
Wilson said he really likes offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system, and said there are some similarities to what he ran at BYU.
"We have some amazing coaches that put us in great situations," he said. "One play complements another, and it keeps the defense on their toes."
The biggest difference from college to the pros?
"The speed of the game is going to be faster, processing [mentally] needs to be faster," he said. "It’s like the same as going from high school to a freshman in college, adjusting to the speed of what’s going on."
Wilson said he doesn’t feel any day-to-day pressure. At least not yet.
"The game of football brings pressure in general," he said. "That’s what makes it fun and exciting. Where pressure comes in is where you look to the future and set expectations. There’s no pressure when you look at it a day at a time. It’s how can I keep improving? The rest takes care of itself and you get to where you need to be."
Where he needs to be? It’s where Jets fans have needed to be for more than half a century.
No explanation necessary.