Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were the two most hyped players in this year’s NFL Draft, and have a long way to go to live up to it.
This is a season of growth and development for both young quarterbacks, who will face off for the first time Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Lawrence, the first overall pick, has led the Jaguars to just two wins and his 14 interceptions are tied for the most in the NFL. The Jets have won just two of the games that Wilson has started, and his 66.4 passer rating ranks 32nd among qualified quarterbacks -slightly worse than Lawrence (69.3).
"As far as rookie quarterbacks, this is usually what happens, they struggle," Jets coach Robert Saleh said. "If you look at rookie quarterbacks in the history of time, it is not easy to come to this league and play quarterback at a high level, especially when you’re coming to a team that’s kind of building."
Saleh said there are "anomalies" such as Justin Herbert last year with the Chargers. Saleh also said it’s different if you come to an "established roster with an established coaching staff."
He then referenced Mac Jones’ success with the AFC-East leading Patriots, where Bill Belichick has been the head coach since 2000 and Josh McDaniels his offensive coordinator for 13 years over two stints.
"There is such a big difference in terms of all of it coming together for a young man," Saleh said.
Both the Jets and Jaguars are rebuilding and have played some ugly games, but Lawrence has had a more tumultuous season than Wilson.
The Jaguars (2-12) fired head coach Urban Meyer last week. Lawrence will be starting from scratch next year with a new coach and offensive system. From that standpoint, Wilson, the No. 2 pick, has an advantage over Lawrence. Wilson is in Year 1 of a system that isn’t going anywhere.
Since returning from a knee injury that sidelined Wilson for four games, he has looked more comfortable running coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system. It hasn’t necessarily shown up in the victory column, though.
The Jets (3-11) have lost three straight games. Yet it’s clear Wilson is playing looser and freer. He’s scrambling more and making plays with his legs. Wilson still needs to get rid of the ball sooner. He was sacked five times in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Miami and six times overall.
Saleh said Wilson is doing "a lot of really cool things" and that everyone around him has to "help elevate him even more." Saleh has consistently said that Wilson is going to benefit from all these experiences.
"What’s encouraging about him is he is learning so many different things and he is getting better at a lot of different things," Saleh said. "He’s got to go through these tough moments. I know he took six sacks, but I promise you, what he’s going through is different than somebody who is just getting his butt kicked because he just has no chance.
"I think he’s going through a tremendous learning curve and it’s one that he’s going to be able to capture and run off of it and take with him to the offseason and grow off of. We’re really excited about where Zach is and we’re really, really confident that his arrow is definitely pointing up and it’s only going to get better."
More COVID additions
The Jets placed rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and nickel cornerback Michael Carter II on the reserve/COVID-19 list. They also activated quarterback Mike White from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Tight end Ryan Griffin (knee) was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. … The Jets claimed safety Will Parks off waivers from the Dolphins.