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Zach Wilson will start Sunday for Jets against Texans, source says

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets walks off

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets walks off the field after a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Zach Wilson has been cleared to play and will start Sunday when the Jets face the Texans in Houston, a league source said.

The rookie quarterback has missed the past four games with a sprained right PCL, but all signs pointed to him returning this week. Wilson has participated in practice the past two weeks and went through a workout on Sunday.

Wilson was cleared Monday night, the source said. The timing couldn’t have been better. In a dizzying day of quarterback news, the Jets placed Mike White and Joe Flacco on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.

White tested positive for COVID-19. Flacco made the list as a close contact. Flacco is unvaccinated. Both are out this week. That leaves Wilson and practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson for Sunday’s game.

Johnson already has been elevated twice, which is the maximum allowed before a team has to sign the player to the active roster. But they’re able to call him up with a COVID exemption.

The decision to start Wilson this week was made before the two backup quarterbacks became unavailable. As soon as he was cleared, the Jets planned to put the football back in Wilson’s hands.

The Jets (2-8) took a conservative approach with Wilson all along and were going to protect him at all costs. Coach Robert Saleh said that they wouldn’t put Wilson back on the field until he "feels like there’s no limitations in his ability to play football, where he’s not thinking about that knee."

They believe Wilson will become their franchise quarterback and lead this team deep into the playoffs eventually. But the No. 2 overall pick has had a rough start to his first NFL campaign.

Before he sprained his knee in the Jets 54-13 loss to New England on Oct. 24, Wilson had struggles moving the offense and with turnovers.

He’s completed 104 of 181 passes (57.5%) for 1,168 yards, four touchdowns with nine interceptions. He has a passer rating of 63.5. The Jets didn’t score any first-quarter points in the six games Wilson started and went 1-5.

The Jets hope Wilson learned how to better run the offense by watching White, Flacco and Johnson during the four games he missed. They all had good moments when the Jets called upon them and have higher passer ratings than Wilson.

White had a 405-yard, three-touchdown game in his first NFL start, leading the Jets to a win over the Bengals. He released the ball quickly, went to his checkdowns when he needed to and got results. But White was benched after a four-interception game against the Bills in Week 10.

Johnson threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns in Indianapolis in Week 9 in relief of White, who left the game with a forearm injury. Flacco started last week and threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Miami.

The Jets don’t want to change Wilson, who starred in college with his ability to keep plays alive and throw the ball into tight spaces. But those same decisions aren’t working in the NFL. The Jets want Wilson to force less and take what the defense gives him.

Wilson said that he has learned a lot by watching while he was hurt.

"I would say the biggest thing that I took away is just getting used to the NFL game," he said. "You start to see our same plays getting run over and over again against different teams and kind of how certain things play out against certain coverages.

"It’s been really cool for me just to kind of sit back and see, ‘He did something different than I might have." But it’s like, ‘Wow, that was really cool to see how this worked out because he did that.’ It’s cool things I can learn from, but of course as a rookie that’s the whole thing is, you’re learning every single play."

New York Sports