Zach Wilson knows he needs to let it rip early.
Slow starts have plagued the quarterback in his first NFL season. He still hasn’t led a first-quarter touchdown drive in seven starts. A field goal last week in Houston, after John Franklin-Myers’ interception and return, were the first opening-quarter points the Jets scored with Wilson running the offense.
It was Wilson’s first game back after missing the previous four with a knee sprain, so rust was expected. He has shown the ability to get going as the game progresses, and he hopes it will happen more quickly, starting with Sunday’s game against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.
"It’s just getting comfortable and settled in," he said. "There’s not one thing to point at or I don’t even really think it needs to be necessarily a huge point of emphasis because I think the more you put on it, the harder it becomes. You just got to go out and play ball.
"That’s my mindset. I just got to come out ripping it from the beginning. Just playing fast and just getting into a rhythm from the beginning. I don’t think there’s any secret to it. You just got to be able to go out and do it."
Wilson will need to be sharp and the defense against the run will need to be far better than it has been for the Jets (3-8) to get their first-ever win against the Eagles. They are 0-11 against Philadelphia.
The Eagles are the NFL’s top rushing team and are good at pressuring the quarterback. Wilson hasn’t handled pressure well. He has thrown 10 interceptions and has been sacked 23 times in seven games.
Wilson, who hurt his knee early in the second quarter of the Jets’ Week 7 loss in New England, hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 3 against the Titans.
"Just be decisive, quick," he said about facing pressure. "If I feel that pocket closing, how can I get it out to my guys? Let them make plays. The longer I hold on to that thing, that’s what they want us to do. I got to be able to go through my reads quickly, understand when to get it out and just play decisive."
The Jets also hope to get their running game going again and keep the ball away from the Eagles for as long as possible. The Jets rushed for a season-high 157 yards last Sunday against the Texans, who are the second-worst team in the NFL in run defense. The Eagles’ front is much more stout on both sides of the ball.
Philadelphia averages 157.9 rushing yards per game and has run for more than 200 in four of its last five, including 208 against the Giants last week. "They found an identity over the last five weeks and they’re really sticking to it," said Jets coach Robert Saleh, whose team has allowed 20 rushing TDs, most in the league.
Jalen Hurts — who leads the Eagles in rushing yards (695) and touchdowns (eight) and also has thrown 13 TD passes — reportedly won’t play because of an ankle issue that hindered him in practice this past week. The Eagles list Hurts as questionable. Gardner Minshew is next up.
Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders is healthy, but pesky Boston Scott missed practice all week with a non-COVID-19 illness. He’s questionable. Jordan Howard is out with a knee injury.
Regardless, the Jets expect the Eagles to run early and often. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich looks at this as "a do- over" after a Thursday night embarrassment against the Colts in which the Jets allowed 260 rushing yards. Most of the Eagles’ coaches come from Indianapolis and run a similar scheme.
"Whatever they present to us, we got to knock it out," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "I feel like we’ve grown and gotten a lot better since then, especially in the run game. We got exposed that game. I feel like we’ve taken a lot of steps since that game. We’re excited to be back on the field Sunday."
New kicker. The Jets, who held a kicking competition this past week after Matt Ammendola missed three field goals in the last two games, signed Alex Kessman and released Ammendola. Kessman, a rookie out of Pitt, was signed to the practice squad after the Jets’ seven-point loss to Miami two Sundays ago. Ammendola missed two field goals that day . . . The Jets also elevated running back Austin Walter, defensive end Ronnie Blair and tight end Dan Brown from the practice squad.