FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Some of the darkest moments in Zach Wilson’s brief NFL career have come against the Patriots. He sounds like someone who believes the storm might be coming to an end.
The Jets quarterback is 0-4 with two touchdowns and seven interceptions against the Pats. Wilson played two terrible games last year in a season that humbled him and stuck with him.
“I wouldn’t say those specifically, just not playing well in general,” Wilson said after practice Thursday. “Each week I maybe lost a little bit of confidence, so I’m excited for where I’m at right now. I’m in a good spot. This team’s in a good spot. We have a lot of belief in each other. I’m excited about where we are.”
The Jets (1-1) will host the Patriots (0-2) on Sunday with an opportunity to improve to 2-0 in the AFC East. Wilson said that’s more important than the Jets ending their 14-game losing streak to New England.
It’s also important for Wilson — and to Wilson — to show he is a different player than last season and that the Jets can rely on him to lead the offense.
“It’s trusting in the guys around me,” Wilson said. “It’s more important to prove to the guys in this locker room that I can lead, I can be efficient, I can get the ball to our playmakers and let those guys do what they’re paid to do.”
This is one of the changes in the 24-year-old Wilson. Those two games against New England served as huge wake-up calls that he needs to hold himself more accountable.
In their first meeting, Wilson was intercepted three times in a five-point loss to New England at MetLife. Recalling that game Thursday, Wilson said “a lot of them were just dumb plays by me.”
The second game was the low point and defining moment of Wilson’s career.
He led the offense to just 103 total yards and only 2 in the second half. The Jets lost, 10-3, on an 84-yard punt return by Marcus Jones with five seconds left.
Wilson was asked afterward if he felt he let the defense down. He said, “no, no.” His teammates were unhappy. Wilson was benched the following game. He said he’s learned a lot from that.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Frustration, emotion, there’s things not going well, as a quarterback you have to understand it’s on you. You have to be able to be the guy that takes it. It’s tough … Going forward no matter what, I want these guys to know I always have their back.”
The Jets have been impressed with how Wilson has grown, matured and rebounded. They have expressed belief that Wilson can help the Jets reach the playoffs.
Wilson was supposed to observe and learn from Aaron Rodgers this season. That changed on the fourth offensive snap of the season when Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon.
The Jets are moving forward with Wilson, who threw three interceptions in last week’s loss to Dallas. All three came in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game. But it raises questions about Wilson’s ability to make this a successful season. His coaches remain in his corner.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said he thought Wilson “did a really good job early” against the Cowboys and was encouraged with his footwork, timing and the way he stepped up made some throws.
Hackett said he’s not worried about how Wilson fared in the past against New England. It’s a new season, new offense and staff and they’re getting Wilson ready to play this game.
“I wasn’t here for that so don’t really look at that,” Hackett said. “It’s about us and what we can do and what he does for us right now, move forward and find a way to beat them.”
Those games were important, though, for Wilson’s development as a quarterback and teammate.
“For me, it’s learning from those mistakes,” he said. “I took it into the offseason as far as how can I watch this whole season and just improve and get better. I feel like I’m in a good spot. I think this team is in a good spot. Trust the guys around me, rely on my brothers and I think we’ll be good to go.”