Zach Wilson may have left school, but he hasn’t stopped studying.
The Jets’ rookie quarterback is poring over film of the offense he will be leading this season, trying to learn everything he can, and by all accounts, he can’t get enough of it.
"He’s a junkie," Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. "He just wants film to the face."
"He’s relentless in terms of his want for knowledge in terms of studying," coach Robert Saleh said. "It is interesting when he’s watching tape the things that he’s able to pick up and recognize on tape. He’s got a lot of horsepower in his mind. He’s not afraid to use all of it."
Wilson has some familiarity with the West Coast system that LaFleur brought with him from San Francisco. BYU’s offense was similar, and Wilson flourished in it. He threw for 33 touchdowns and ran for 10 more last season.
But LaFleur’s system is more detailed, and the defenses Wilson will be facing each week will be far superior. You can’t blame the hungry young quarterback for wanting to make sure he’s ready when the Jets open the season Sept. 12 against their former quarterback, Sam Darnold, and the Carolina Panthers.
"I don’t want to let my teammates down," Wilson said, "so I’m going to do everything in my control to make sure I’m prepared."
That outlook and approach are just a couple of reasons the Jets decided to move on from Darnold and go forward with Wilson.
The Jets selected Wilson with the No. 2 pick and have been nothing but impressed by his maturity, desire to be great and thirst for soaking up everything about the offense.
It features outside zone runs, plenty of play-action and throws by the quarterback on the move. Wilson’s face lights up as he talks about the offense and seeing how it can keep defenses off balance.
"What I like? I don’t know if there’s much I don’t like," he said. "We got some amazing coaches that put us in some great situations, some very intelligent guys and so many details. The biggest thing I like about the offense is one play complements another and then another and another. It keeps the defense on their toes.
"They’re always thinking something looks the same and all of a sudden we throw something else at them. It’s the ability to be confusing for a defense and to do a lot of things."
The system is used by a number of teams, including the 49ers, Rams and Packers, whose head coach is Matt LaFleur, Mike’s brother. Mike has talked to Matt about Wilson’s thirst for knowledge about the offense. Matt LaFleur gave Mike a little lighthearted brotherly advice.
"He’s like, ‘You better not burn this guy out,’ " Mike LaFleur said. "He’s taking a lot of film with him. He’s the one that wants to watch this film. It’s unique and it’s cool to be able to watch him be able to sit there and stay focused and process all the information we’re trying to give him."
LaFleur said Wilson was asking questions almost immediately after he got to the Jets’ facility. He wanted more and more information. LaFleur joked that he’s had to rein in Wilson a bit.
"He wanted to ask questions that were probably two questions away," LaFleur said. "I said, ‘Let’s get that formation down.’ He said, ‘I can do that on my own, I got that stuff.’ He wanted to do that on his own. He wanted to do the stuff that there’s no way he could learn on his own, so he wanted to hear it from us so he could start the process."
Wilson has gone through rookie minicamp and a first full week of voluntary OTAs. He looked sharp during Thursday’s workout, which was open to the media. Wilson had zip on his throws and showed good touch, particularly on a fade route to Keelan Cole. He also seemed to be grasping the offense.
Of course, there was no hitting and none of the projected starting receivers were on the field. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder weren’t there, and Corey Davis watched from the sideline because of a shoulder issue.
"His arm is live," Saleh said. "He gets the ball in and out of his hands very quickly. He’s a good decision-maker and all that good stuff. There’s going to be ebbs and flows with him, but we’re excited about what he’s shown so far."