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Wiser Jets QB Zach Wilson readies to start against Texans

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. — Jets quarterback Zach Wilson stood on the field throwing short touchdown passes again and again. But there was no defense lined up in front of him, so that kind of helped during this drill at practice on Friday.

Things will get real again for Wilson on Sunday. The Jets are headed to Houston for a game between two 2-8 teams and the resumption of the Wilson era. Everyone will get to see if the rookie learned some valuable lessons while sitting out the previous four games with a sprained knee.

The Jets took off offensively with Mike White, Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco playing quarterback, but offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is hoping Wilson’s step back will lead to a step forward.

"Like I kind of said four weeks ago when I got asked the question ‘how much is this going to hurt him?’ — I think it’s going to help him," LaFleur said. "To sit back and watch veterans play and take the good, take the bad and just learn from all the stuff they did well and all the mistakes they made.

"So it’ll be fun to get him back out there, see what he’s learned and go play his game."

LaFleur saw a better version in practice this week.

"The improvements that I believe he’s made these last three days compared to where he was a month ago, you could see it in those three days, and hopefully it’ll carry over to Sunday," LaFleur said.

When Wilson got hurt against New England on Oct. 24, he had nine interceptions and four TD throws in six games.

"You trust that he’s such a smart young man and he works so hard that he’s going to figure this out," coach Robert Saleh said. "He’s a young man that’s getting reps."

Despite the early struggles, the team believes in the second overall pick out of BYU, according to tight end Ryan Griffin.

"The belief is strong," he said. "Since Day 1, we knew he was the guy. He was going to be the franchise quarterback here for a long time, even when I’m gone."

Now it’s back to gaining experience in the middle of chaos.

"Even if he was having just great success early on, you still want to see improvements and see the game get a little slower  ," LaFleur said. "So I know that’s something that he wants to make come to life."

Notes & quotes: Johnson is expected to be the backup QB, but Flacco, an unvaccinated close contact of White, who tested positive for COVID-19, is "on pace" via testing to be cleared to play, according to Saleh. If Flacco is cleared, the Jets could fly him to Houston. LaFleur said White "is feeling well."Receiver Corey Davis (groin) and defensive linemen John Franklin-Myers (hip) and Folorunso Fatukasi (foot) were limited in practice. They’re expected to play.

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