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Jets' Zach Wilson hopes to rebound in round two against Belichick's defense

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets attempts a

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against Joejuan Williams #33 of the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Zach Wilson doesn’t need any reminders about what happened the first time he faced New England, but the Jets rookie quarterback isn’t dwelling on it either.

Wilson said he won’t be out for redemption or to prove that his four-interception performance in a 25-6 defeat in Week 2 was an aberration when he plays his first game inside Gillette Stadium on Sunday. He flushed that terrible outing quickly.

"What does being mad about that game do?" Wilson said. "You got another game that comes at you quick."

Wilson and the 1-4 Jets have had a little break between games. They haven’t played since a 27-20 loss to Atlanta in London two weeks ago. The bye week gave Wilson a chance to go home to Utah, see family and friends, attend a BYU game and work on some things with his personal quarterback coach, John Beck.

"It was a good chance to unplug, kind of reflect on the first five games, how we’ve done, how I’ve done, what things I can improve on, and then just a little bit of time to just work on what I wanted to work on," he said. "I thought it was a really productive week."

It’s been a rough start to Wilson’s NFL career.

He is leading one of the worst offenses in the NFL. He has thrown an NFL-high nine interceptions, and his four touchdown passes are tied with Daniel Jones of the Giants for the fewest of quarterbacks with at least five starts.

But the low point to his season came five weeks ago, in the Jets’ home opener at MetLife Stadium. Wilson became the latest young quarterback to falter against Bill Belichick and his defense. It happened pretty quickly too.

Wilson’s first two pass attempts were intercepted and four of his first 10 throws were picked off. He finished 19-for-33 for 210 yards, he led no touchdown drives and was sacked four times. Wilson’s passer rating was 37.0.

He said it wasn’t anything the Patriots were doing that he wasn’t prepared to see. Wilson just made some poor decisions — throwing into double coverage or trying to get a big play when the check down was the right one.

Following the game, coach Robert Saleh’s message to Wilson was "it’s OK to be boring" and not force things that aren’t there because he got away with it in college.

These are all parts of growing up as an NFL quarterback. Wilson believes he will be better prepared for whatever is thrown at him this time by Belichick, who is 23-6 as Patriots coach against rookie quarterbacks, including 13-0 at Gillette Stadium.

But Wilson is not looking at this game as a chance to show how far he’s come since their last meeting. Every game is "a steppingstone" for him.

"I really judge myself on the decisions I’m making every single play and if that play was the right decision to put the team in the right spot," Wilson said. "That’s what this week is going to be about as well. How can I just put my team in the best positions to win this game? After that we’re just going to keep getting better."

Wilson still is trying to find the balance between taking chances and when to throw the ball in the dirt or out of bounds.

He was a dynamic player at BYU with the ability to make plays off schedule, throws on the run and fit them in tight windows. Wilson has shown flashes of that, but he’s also learning that "sometimes it’s not worth that risk."

The New England game proved that and for Wilson this approach applies to every opponent he faces. But the Jets’ offensive struggles aren’t all on Wilson’s shoulders.

His receivers need to help him out by running the right routes and catching the football. Corey Davis’ five drops are tied for the second most in the NFL according to Pro Football Reference. Running backs Michael Carter and Ty Johnson each have two drops.

Wilson also needs the offensive line to give him the time to sit back and survey the field so he’s not rushed. And the play calling also needs to be better.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has maintained that he hasn’t done enough to make his quarterback look or feel comfortable and he takes responsibility for asking Wilson to do too much the last time against New England.

"Any time you see someone struggle, I always go back to myself and what I’m asking him to do," LaFleur said. "If they’re struggling, they’re basically telling me right there in the moment or on film, ‘Hey this is too much. I’m not understanding.’ We have to go back and either word it better or I have to flat-out put him in better situations."

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