Robert Saleh believes fixing Jets' defense will help Zach Wilson improve at quarterback
INDIANAPOLIS — Everything the Jets do this offseason will be all about helping Zach Wilson, and that includes fixing the defense.
Coach Robert Saleh said improving the defense, which ranked last in the NFL in points allowed, will be a priority. He believes having a strong defense will make Wilson a better quarterback because it will allow him to relax and not feel like he has to do too much.
"If you’re having to play a shootout that’s a lot of pressure on a quarterback," Saleh said via Zoom Wednesday morning. "I don’t care which QB you are. To wake up Sunday morning knowing you’re about to go into a shootout and you have to keep pace because you can’t get enough stops, so absolutely it helps.
"It helps [offensive coordinator Mike] LaFleur. It helps Zach. It helps everybody because you can play a style of ball where you can call plays to set things up. You don’t have to be impatient. It’s OK to punt. It’s OK to keep the game a one-score game and then, shoot, fourth quarter comes, it’s playmaker time, let’s go make some plays and win a football game."
The Jets have the assets to improve the defense. They are projected to have about $48 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com, and have picks 4 and 10 in the first round of next month’s draft. Getting an edge rusher and upgrading the entire secondary certainly will be areas of focus.
"Having a better defense and improving on defense is in the front of our minds," Saleh said.
After going 4-13, the Jets have holes everywhere. They need to shore up the offensive line and get Wilson more weapons, particularly a receiver who can stretch the defense, and a reliable, versatile tight end.
Wilson struggled early in his rookie season, but he showed growth and development as the season continued. To fully evaluate him and whether he can be the quarterback the Jets believe, they must improve the talent around him.
"Anything we do to this team is going to be helping the quarterback at this point," Saleh said. "Whether it’s improving the defense, adding a skill guy, improving the O-line, adding a tight end, it doesn’t matter. Everything that we do, no matter what decision we make, will be indirectly or directly improving the quarterback."
Saleh isn’t at the Combine. He’s back in New Jersey, meeting with his coaches, poring over film on free agents and draft prospects and taking part in all meetings and interviews virtually. His position coaches will fly out to Indianapolis for player workouts. Saleh believes he got a head start by coaching the Senior Bowl last month.
"We’re still getting all the work we need to from an exposure to the players standpoint," he said. "But I felt like by being here we’re able to get so much more work done with regards to scheme and draft and free agency, all of it. I feel really good about where we are."