When Sam Darnold faced the Patriots we all heard about how he saw ghosts. Bill Belichick hasn’t been kind to rookie quarterbacks. New Jets QB, Zach Wilson, spoke to the media on Wednesday and was asked about the Patriots.
Your first go at the Patriots, obviously, thoughts kind of going in, just kind of your opinion and what you know of the rivalry, before the first matchup?
Yeah, it’s super cool. You think the New England Patriots your whole life and my whole life, how many Super Bowls they’ve won, and how many I’ve seen them in. Obviously, the team is a little bit different now without Tom (Brady) there. But Bill Belichick is still there and that dude is one of the best coaches around. The scheme and the way he gets those guys to play hard and the rules he gives them, it’s tough, he does a good job. So, it’s going to be a good challenge for us.
What about the Patriots scheme sticks out to you defensively?
I would say they’re very disciplined. They’re able to just play man coverage and put guys on an island and they have a lot of trust in their players. The technique that they teach, the ability to just completely say, “Hey, you got a man for a man right here and you got to win.” They have good players and they do a really good job of just doing a lot of different things. Normally teams, when they have a lot of different things, they start to screw up on things. You know it’s a well-coached team when they do a lot of things and they also execute really well. So, that’s where the challenging part comes in.
Belichick coached defenses are known for creating a lot of misery for rookie quarterbacks, there’s a long record, stats that you probably don’t need to hear, but what kind of challenge, do you relish that kind of challenge going against that?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited for it. I think it’s going to be a good challenge for me, tons of great learning, I’m sure. And then also, these guys are a part of our division so, we’re going to play them a lot this year and then the coming years of course. It’s just getting used to this scheme, how we can beat some of the things they’re going to throw at us. It’s no secret what they’re going to throw at us, now you got to try and stop it. That’s the big question, we have, I think, a lot of good things we’ve been working on this week.
When you were in college or watching film of other NCAA quarterbacks, was Mac Jones ever on the list?
I mean no disrespect to Mac, but no. I think our games are just different, it’s not that he’s not a good player, he’s a great player, obviously, what he’s been doing is awesome. But our game is just different as far as what we’re doing. I would definitely say Alabama though, we stole things from them as a team at BYU and we tried to copy them on a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t even say necessarily in college I watched college quarterbacks, I watched more pro quarterbacks and saw the way that they played.
Do you know him at all, or have you crossed paths with Mac Jones?
Yeah, he’s a cool dude. We ran into each other at the combine stuff, a little bit, and then some at the draft night and so, I was excited for him and his opportunity, super cool. That’s the cool thing about being in this spot, it’s not like me and him are really competing for a spot. I got to go to my team, and he got to go to his. So, all those quarterbacks in the draft, you really hope the best for them.
Given the pressure you faced in your first game and the amount of hits you took, a lot of people praised your resilience and toughness afterwards, but are you a little concerned to have to take that number of hits every week, that it’ll be tough to stay healthy over the course of a long season?
No, absolutely not. I don’t worry about that, injuries happen, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s from that. Also just pressure wise too, I got to do a better job handling it. We’re going to clean things up this week, but pressure is a thing that’s team wide and I have to do a better job of making sure a team doesn’t do that and I’m not getting hit on my back all the time. It’s a point of emphasis for us this week and we’re going to keep working on it.
You go from basically you haven’t been hit since college and then you get hit like you did last week. What was that like to kind of jump right into that?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I think I’ve said it before but like, you don’t really feel like, it didn’t seem weird if that makes sense. It seems like it’s just football, like you’ve played your whole life. I’m sure you guys have seen in practice, I haven’t scrambled once since I’ve gotten here. That ability in the game to just kind of feel when to get out and when not to just kind of naturally comes back. You just have that backyard football player in you sometimes when you need it. The getting hit part, I feel like it’s just a natural thing, I’ve been getting hit since I was eight years old.
There was a play where you were kind of backyard football running around, running around and then you got hit pretty good on like the second or third guy that ended up coming in. So, is there a point where there has to be a second clock that goes off, like the clock when you’re in the pocket like, “Alright, get out.” But then the one where, “Okay, I got to get the ball because somebody’s coming?”
That play was interesting because, of course in my mind I’m like, ‘How do I get the ball down the field?’ We have a guy open and then, also, how do I just get rid of the ball so we can survive. When you’re getting spun around and there’s dudes from all different, you have no idea if you go to throw and someone knocks it out of your hand, you have no idea where someone’s coming from. So, at that point, I’m just like, ‘How can I get us as close back to the line of scrimmage and just eat it at that point.’ Because eventually when you’re running around like that someone’s going to hit you pretty good. That kind of crossed my mind once I got out of the first group of guys, it was just like, ‘How can I just get back to the line of scrimmage and just eat this one and survive to play the next down.’
So, when a team gives up six sacks, usually the offensive line gets most of the blame. So, you’re saying, looking over the film, that there are things that you can do as well like just from learning through experience? Like what, just be quicker on your reads, see things pre-snap, what can you do?
Yeah, of course. And that’s what’s so cool about football, it’s such a team game, right? There’s sometimes where I’m going to bail them out and there’s sometimes where they’re going to bail me out. I think that’s where it goes hand-in-hand. The first sack that I took where I got pumped and try to throw it over to the left. We’re in a five-man pro, the backs are releasing, that’s my guy. I got to throw that, that’s not on the o-line. And then later in the game, maybe they miss a pass pro or whatever and I get out of the pocket and make a play on something. So, it goes hand-in-hand and so, that’s kind of why it’s a little bit skewed as far as just like, six sacks is all on the o-line. It’s definitely teamwide and, for one, me just getting the ball out quicker, understanding that those guys are all teeing off up front and how can I just help those guys out and get the ball out of my hands.
Did you have any interaction with the Patriots when you were in the draft, Zach? Did they interview you at all?
Yeah, I did, I got to talk to Josh McDaniels a little bit. Super cool dude, I actually liked him a lot. I thought he was a nice dude. He’s obviously a smart guy and does some cool stuff.
Zach, you said you were excited about this opportunity. A lot of players don’t have that much fun against the Patriots. A few years ago, the Jets quarterback was on mic’d up saying, “I’m seeing ghosts out there.” What excited you about facing that defense and facing Belichick?
I think it just kind of goes back to, it’s interesting, I look at my college days, if I played bad or didn’t do well, I felt like I was hurting my opportunity for the future. But now, I’m in the NFL. This is a job for me now. It’s cool because there were times where plays were challenging last week and there was adversity and things were going on and then even same this week, it’s like, ‘This is tough, this a hard job.’ It’s awesome, sometimes I just sit back and smile like, ‘This is so cool.’ There’s nothing better when you go out there against the Patriots and they maybe smack you in the mouth on one then you stand up and you hit a big throw down the field. That’s the fun part of the game, you never know what you’re going to get. I really just enjoy the challenge of this. Our job is never the same, every single day we’re always looking at something new. I think that’s going to be the exciting part for this week, it’s going to be fun.
One thing that the Patriots like to do is they like to take away one of your favorite targets. Obviously, Corey (Davis) is one of your favorite targets. So, what are things that you can do to make sure that you can still feed Corey, because obviously, if Corey is doing well, then the offense is doing well?
You see it all the time, right, there’s great receivers on every team and those guys still manage to get theirs in. Whether it’s a game plan thing and you’re just putting them in situations that’s going to get them the ball. Sometimes when it comes down to one-on-one’s it’s just my guy against yours. I got to have that trust that he’s going to win and then, across the board, it’s how can I just get our other guys involved. We got some great talent across the board that I think a lot of people are going to be able to see soon and, once