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Jets QB Zach Wilson happy to see Mike White succeed in his absence

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) warms-up before an

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) warms-up before an NFL football game between the Jets and the Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. Credit: AP/Alastair Grant

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Zach Wilson’s knee seems to be hurting more than his feelings.

The rookie quarterback was selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft and essentially handed the keys to the Jets’ franchise. But since Wilson sprained his right knee in Week 7, Mike White has been driving the offense - and he may keep doing it if he continues to play well.

Wilson is handling this possibility very maturely and professionally. He showered White with support and said the uncertainty of his status is not bothering him at all.

"No, definitely not," Wilson said Thursday. "The reason is I’ve only played [six] games. I just got here. I’m supposed to be a senior in college right now. You got to understand it’s going to be hard.

"You have to go through adversity to get where you want to go. I definitely didn’t come here thinking that this is greatest thing ever and I’m going to go undefeated. I knew it was going to be tough. That’s part of the process. My time is going to come."

Wilson said White is his closest friend on the team and he’s extremely happy for his success. Right now, Wilson’s main focus is getting healthy, so he has a shot to run the offense again.

When Wilson sprained his PCL, the timetable for his return was 2-4 weeks. He’s approaching the three-week mark. Wilson has been running the scout team at practice this week and he said he feels limited.

"I’m definitely not 100% still," Wilson said. "This week is a big feel week for me as far as having the knee feel like normal. Little bit of scrambling and moving around, it doesn’t feel 100%t there."

Coach Robert Saleh said that’s the reason that White will start Sunday against the Bills. But Saleh didn’t rule out White remaining the quarterback when Wilson is healthy. The coach said the quarterback situation would work itself out "organically."

Whether Wilson regains his starting job when he is 100% remains to be seen, but he doesn’t seem to be losing sleep over it.

"I can’t even worry about that," he said. "I just got to go to practice every single day, learn from [White’s] reps, talk with those guys and just control what I can control."

The Jets hoped Wilson would pick up things from sitting back and watching someone else lead the offense. White, the unheralded fourth-year quarterback who never played an NFL game before Wilson hurt his knee, has run the system and moved the ball down the field better than Wilson.

White has gotten the ball out faster and has utilized his checkdowns far more than Wilson. White has thrown five touchdown passes in 88 attempts. Wilson has thrown four and nine interceptions in 181 passes. Wilson acknowledged he is learning from White, including not forcing throws.

"His ability to just quickly go through the process, the ability to not feel like he needs to force something, he’s going to take what the defense gives him," Wilson said. "My style of play needs to get more like that."

This could end up being the best thing that happened to Wilson and the Jets, if he turns into the quarterback they believe he can be. It’s also working out for White. He’s been able to show he might be a reliable NFL starting quarterback, whether it’s with the Jets or not.

Both Wilson and White talked about how they won’t let this quarterback controversy or competition affect their relationship. Wilson said it’s been "a lot smoother" than everyone probably expected.

"I don’t think it’s been awkward for a second," White said. "He’s been so supportive and he’s been awesome. It hasn’t changed our relationship one bit and it won’t."

Wilson expressed genuine happiness for what’s White’s done.

"I thought it was really cool," Wilson said. "Me being picked where I’m at I’m going to get my opportunities. The situation that Mike’s in… you can only judge so much off of practice reps.

"It was really cool [for him] to be able to show, hey this guy is an NFL quarterback and can play ball. It definitely helped his career. It shows everybody how good of a quarterback he can be. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities. I’m really happy for him."

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