The New York Jets season opener vs the Carolina Panthers didn’t go exactly according to plan.
The tape was littered with mistakes, miscues, and blown assignments. Although it wasn’t all bad for the green and white faithful.
In a world of unknowns in the NFL, there appears to be one very known commodity coming out of the Week 1 performance the Jets believe they have the real deal in rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
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It Wasn’t Perfect but That’s Okay
That first half was ugly.
The former BYU stud didn’t convert a third down (0-for-4), couldn’t do anything against the blitz (0-for-4), when under duress was incapable (0-for-7), play-action passing game didn’t work (0-for-4), and when he went deep it was a disaster (0-for-3). Entering halftime he had a quarterback rating of 5.9.
You could argue the offensive line stunk and didn’t protect him. Or that his receivers dropped multiple passes that could’ve drastically changed those numbers or at the very least field position.
If this game had happened last year during the Adam Gase era, the Jets would’ve lost like 35-0, but this current version showed resilience.
Although instead of collapsing like a used lawn chair, Wilson took the heat and stepped up to the plate in the second half.
The coaches made adjustments, Wilson started ripping it, and his players started finally catching some passes.
Despite everything falling apart around him, the 22-year old gunslinger in his very first NFL game nearly single-handedly put the team on his back and nearly pulled off the upset on the road. He just ran out of time.
High Praise for the Talented Rookie out of BYU
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN spoke with several NFL executives and personnel evaluators around the league to gauge the debut of the rookie quarterbacks and what it all means moving forward:
“[I’m] absolutely sold on Wilson coming off of this game,” one anonymous NFL evaluator said. “He’s extremely confident. Even with the rocky start, he didn’t lose confidence. He broke the pocket and threw the ball deep the first four times; instead of looking for routes coming back to him, he’s looking to go deep. He’s buying time and escaping to make a big play. He got hit, and he didn’t blink.”
The talent evaluators and executives were impressed in general, but they were even more so considering all of the pieces that were out heading into the game (Jamison Crowder) or the ones that got knocked out during it (Mekhi Becton).
The Jets’ talented blindside protector is now out for at least the next four to six weeks which will make things much more difficult for Wilson to stay upright.
With that, the green and white will have to adjust the offensive philosophy and play calls to get the ball out quicker. That will be good news according to the panel of NFL executives:
“He’s a naturally aggressive thrower, which will get him in trouble but will also create opportunities downfield. He can throw with timing and rhythm, but he’s seeing speed and [defensive] rotations he wasn’t seeing in the preseason. At least his ability to throw off-platform will help him in a bad offense.”
Wilson’s ability to evade oncoming defenders was on full display in the season opener. On one occasion he juked out one of the most athletic pass rushers in the league, Brian Burns, as a free-roaming rusher and rolled out the pocket to keep the play alive.
While that was cool and made sexy highlights on social, it wasn’t ideal. If you put your ear to the television you could almost hear Wilson screaming for help as he ran away trying to keep himself alive.
At this point, Wilson has no other choice but to be himself and that’s the reason Gang Green drafted him. Try to make plays in the pocket and if all hell breaks loose, spin the cap backward and go make a play by any means necessary.
The ESPN panel gave the former BYU passer a C+ grade for his Week 1 performance and noted that he needs to be more efficient and do his part to avoid sacks.
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