DENVER — Zach Wilson promises to play a different game this week — one that’s more boring and doesn’t include him throwing four interceptions.
Boring was the buzzword around the Jets all week after coach Robert Saleh said there’s nothing wrong with Wilson playing "a boring game."
Wilson’s dynamic playmaking skills made him the No. 2 pick in the draft. But the Jets want him to dial it down a little bit and not try to do too much after his nightmarish four-pick game last Sunday against New England.
"I don’t think it’s necessarily challenging, it’s just being smart with the ball," Wilson said. "There wasn’t check downs on some of those interceptions, right. It’s not just, 'Hey, check the ball down.' It’s, 'Hey, be smart with the ball, how can you throw it away or get rid of it?' That’s what I’m applying to this next week, and just trying to learn and get better."
Wilson will face another tough defense Sunday when the winless Jets play Vic Fangio’s unbeaten Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.
Fangio, a head coach who made his name as a defensive coordinator, has Denver ranked in the top five in total defense, passing defense, rushing defense and points allowed.
Wilson, who is playing through a groin issue, already has gone against the No. 1 (Carolina) and No. 3 (New England) overall defenses.
"For Zach, it’s not a good thing that he’s gotten three of the best defenses in football to start the season," Saleh said. "At the same time, he’s going to learn a lot from it. And Denver is another one of those great defenses, great scheme, and it’s going to be a great challenge for him."
The Broncos did a number on rookie Trevor Lawrence last week. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick, was 14-for-33 for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating was 37.2, just narrowly beating Wilson’s 37.0 performance.
Outside linebacker Von Miller is back after missing last year with an ankle injury and hunting quarterbacks again. You can’t make many mistakes against this defense and expect to win, especially the way the Broncos’ offense is playing.
They’re the only NFL team averaging more than 275 passing yards and 130 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been sharp, throwing four touchdown passes without an interception.
If the Jets are going to get their first September victory since 2018, it’s won’t all be on Wilson’s shoulders. But to give them a chance, Wilson has to make better decisions, which was all Saleh was saying. This isn’t BYU. The talent is better, faster, stronger and your mistakes are magnified.
"You got to take what the defense gives you," offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. "He’ll learn from his mistakes. But the thing for him that’s cool is he’s got to maintain that every week’s a new week and ‘I got to be aggressive, and I got to play within the system.’"
The Jets were able to establish their run game last week, rushing for 152 yards. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson led the way and will again with Tevin Coleman out with a non-COVID illness. The Jets will try to run the ball and not put as much on Wilson.
They still believe in their young quarterback and that he will be special one day, but growing pains were expected.
"From a skill set perspective, he’s as talented, if not the most talented quarterback I’ve been on a team with," Jets defensive coordinator and former NFL linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "From arm talent to athletic ability to timing to all the things that he has. Plus, he’s got this real authentic swagger, confidence about him. But he plays a position that is an absolute monster to start as a rookie.
"You look at the great quarterbacks of this league, they either struggled as rookies or they didn’t play as rookies. I still have tremendous faith in him, as our team does, as the entire organization does . . . It’s so necessary to go through these bumps to become the quarterback he needs to be. But the talent is absolutely there. I look forward to the day when it starts clicking. Hopefully it’s this Sunday we start to see it turn."