The Jets say they still believe in Zach Wilson, but the young quarterback will have to make some major changes and improvements from the ground up.
It’s Zach to school.
Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said Wilson needs “a reset” to fix some mechanics and fundamentals. First and foremost is his footwork. That’s what Wilson will be working on while Mike White runs the offense for however long the Jets allow him to do so.
“There’s some basic fundamental things that have gotten really out of whack for him,” Saleh said. “This is just an opportunity for him to sit back, focus on those things, find a way to reconnect on the different things that we fell in love with during the draft process.”
The Jets drafted Wilson second overall last year. The starting job was his the moment he was drafted, and Saleh has dubbed Wilson “the future of this franchise” numerous times.
That doesn’t seem as rock solid now, even though Saleh said the Jets haven’t “wavered in our belief” that Wilson is the future. It will depend on how he handles this “reset” and what improvements he makes.
Wilson has struggled to make even the simplest throws. He had only nine completions in 22 attempts last Sunday against the Patriots and brought up the windy conditions inside Gillette Stadium. New England quarterback Mac Jones was 23-for-27 in the same conditions.
“There’s just a few things in his game right now that will continue to deteriorate if we keep throwing him out there,” Saleh said. “We just got to give him a chance to reset.”
Saleh is using some descriptive words and phrases that are alarming, but Wilson has given him reason.
Missing receivers on easy throws, overthrowing them on screens or in the middle of the field, underthrowing them on screens and not getting to all of his reads have been all too common. Wilson’s feet aren’t set and he often throws off his back foot under pressure, many times errantly.
“I got to set my feet, step into my throws,” he said. “It’s not just that. I got a lot to improve. I’m going to keep working every single day.”
LaFleur said they’ve got to teach Wilson to “get his feet in the ground so he can have more of a consistent swing, just like you would in golf.”
It’s never a good sign when receivers are voicing their displeasure about the offense to the media or when there are sideline outbursts or body language that screams frustration. See Garrett Wilson, Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore.
They’re undoubtedly upset with the play-calling too, but Wilson is botching the simple throws and reads. He completed a career-low 40.9% of his passes against New England. He is 35th in the NFL in completion percentage (55.6). Twenty-nine quarterbacks are over 60%.
“It’s a mental and physical reset, more so the physical,” LaFleur said. “We just got to find a way to get him to play more fundamentally sound in the lower half. That’s what we’ll do over the next few weeks.
“The more consistent you are in your lower half, the more consistent play you’re going to have when you get out there on Sundays. So we’re going to get right back to that. We just have to get right back to that.”
The difficult part is that this is not the offseason or even training camp, when players can really work on and improve skills. It’s late November and the Jets are in a playoff race. Wilson is going to have to want to put in the extra work, but the Jets continue to laud his work ethic and desire to be great.
Last year, the Jets brought in Wilson’s personal quarterbacks coach, John Beck, and had him on staff the second half of the season to work with him. Wilson ended his rookie season much stronger than he started it. Beck didn’t return, so Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese will continue to work with Wilson.
LaFleur said Wilson has to focus on this during individual drills while running the scout team in practice and post-practice training. The Jets hope to give Wilson the ball back later in the season – perhaps Week 15 against Detroit - but that will depend upon whether he’s made the necessary improvements.
“It’s something that talking with Zach, we’re all excited to attack,” Saleh said. “Is it a small step back? Absolutely, for him. But do I think it’s going to be a great leap forward when he does get a chance to reset himself? Absolutely.”