FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Zach Wilson was supposed to have a whole season of watching and learning from Aaron Rodgers. Instead, Wilson spent two weeks watching Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian run the Jets’ offense.
If Wilson learned anything, it was what not to do.
The Jets have gone back to Wilson - again. He will start Sunday against the Texans when the Jets (4-8) try to snap a five-game losing streak. The Jets hope Wilson will come back more aggressive and a lot more effective than he was earlier this season and than his replacements were in the last two games.
“We want to give him a lot of different opportunities,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I think that he’s had the two weeks off to re-center himself and learn and to continually grow.
“When we look at it from the very beginning of this season the whole idea was for him to be able to sit back and learn from Aaron. I think that those two weeks are something that he was able to do.”
Wilson spent the two games on the sideline with Rodgers. It’s possible Rodgers gave Wilson some pointers and told him what he would have done differently. It’s not the same as watching Rodgers operate, deal with different looks, and change the play based on what he’s seeing.
Boyle, who was waived on Tuesday, and Siemian, who will be Wilson’s backup, played 23 series in those two games. They led one touchdown and two field goal drives and turned it over four times.
Wilson hasn’t been much better this season. He’s led nine touchdown drives in 10 games, but Saleh said Wilson “gives us the best chance to win.” Saleh also said Wilson will be the starter for the remainder of the season provided he stays healthy.
“The guy’s been battle tested,” Hackett said. “He really has. From being out on the field to all the things he’s had to deal with. I respect him so much for being able to keep his head down, continually learn, continually grow, and he’s fired up.”
Wilson has been through a lot in his three NFL seasons. Some of it has been by his own doing and some has been out of his control.
He’s been benched three times in less than 13 months. The Jets keep going back to Wilson, which says something about their other options. When Saleh removed Wilson from the loss in Buffalo and put Boyle in, there was a feeling that Wilson had had his last shot.
“One thing I’ve learned about being in the NFL is you can never assume anything week-to-week,” Wilson said. “I truly believe, maybe I’m not playing this week but I got to stay ready to go and when my opportunity comes I can’t wait to take advantage of it.”
Wilson spent his two-week demotion “pretending like I was the starter.” He said he stayed dialed into the game plan and got his throws in during and after practice and early on game days.
The Jets may want Wilson to throw the ball more on Sunday. Saleh has talked about wanting Wilson to “let the thing rip." Honestly, he probably should. What’s the worst that could happen? The Jets bench him again?
His best game of the season, and probably his career, was a 23-20 loss to Kansas City in Week 4. Wilson completed 28-of-39 passes for 245 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That was the only game this season that the Jets got in the end zone twice.
“I think he has grown,” Hackett said. “We saw some great improvement early in the season. The idea is to just get him back there so he can cut it loose. We always want to be aggressive. I think that’s something we’re always going to push on him.”