FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Zach Wilson shares a birthday with Tom Brady. The Jets and their fans hope that’s not all the two share.
Wilson turned 22 years old on Tuesday, making him exactly half of Brady’s age.
"It’s pretty dang cool," Wilson said after practice Tuesday. "I’d say one of the craziest parts is I think I was 1 in his first year in the NFL. It’s crazy to think about it."
It’s remarkable that Brady is still playing at 44 and at such a high level. He led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory last season after winning six with the Patriots.
Wilson grew up an Aaron Rodgers fan and patterned his game after the Green Bay great because of his ability to move and throw the ball on the run and from different arm angles. But he also spent a lot of time watching Brady.
"Brady, in my opinion, is the greatest of all time," the Jets rookie quarterback said. "I don’t think you can argue that. Wherever he’s at he’s winning. I’ve always been a Rodgers guy because of the flashiness, but the thing that’s important in the game is winning.
"This is a team sport, it’s all about winning. It’s not about how cool a throw looks or anything like that. He’s definitely been a favorite to watch growing up. That’s just because of the way he does it, the way he’s found a system, a process that works for him as far as his offseason conditioning."
The Jets wouldn’t mind if Wilson turned out like Rodgers, either.
Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and led his team to the NFC title game the past two years while playing for coach Matt LaFleur. Wilson is playing for his brother Mike LaFleur, the Jets’ first-year offensive coordinator, and just scratching the surface of what he will become.
This was only Wilson’s fourth training-camp practice. His day was a mixed bag.
Wilson completed seven straight passes at one point in team drills, but only two of his last six. He also underthrew his receivers a few times. One in particular to Vyncint Smith could have been a touchdown if Wilson hit him in stride. Smith had to come back and catch the ball.
Some of Wilson’s struggles came from being under pressure often. On the first day the Jets wore pads, the defensive line had another strong day against the offensive line. Carl Lawson beat Mekhi Becton for two would-be sacks on Wilson and Bryce Huff got one after he got by Morgan Moses.
Wilson believes both sides of the ball are benefiting from these experiences and battles.
"It’s huge for me, it’s huge for our O-line and it’s definitely huge for team in general because if you can get pressure on the quarterback you can cause a lot of issues," Wilson said. "When you can have a quarterback that’s efficient with a pass rush like that then you can win a lot of football games.
"It’s awesome to feel guys in my face. You can’t replicate that kind of thing in one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens. That’s real football."
Coach Robert Saleh said the offensive line needs to protect Wilson better, but he thinks the young quarterback has handled the rush well.
"I think he’s doing a good job. He’s getting his handful," Saleh said. "He had about four of them where the pocket closed on him and he just wasn’t sure where the receiver was and he underthrew one of them. Those are things that he has to feel and trust and know that that comes with understanding and knowing exactly where his players are going to be and being able to launch it to a spot on the field all in a phone booth.
"He’s doing a good job right now. I think he’s not even close to where he’s going to go."
Backup offensive lineman Chuma Edoga left practice after aggravating a lingering knee issue . . . Defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga also left practice with an undisclosed injury . . . Right tackle George Fant, who had COVID-19, returned and was running on the side.