Brighter Days Ahead for Zach Wilson?
After a 2022 season filled with disappointment, it seemed like the New York Jets finally accepted that former 2nd overall pick Zach Wilson was a lost cause last offseason, bringing in future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers to lead the show. But, as fate would have it, Rodgers went down after just four plays, and Wilson got one last unexpected chance in the spotlight. A chance that he hasn’t let slip through his fingers.
Over the last two weeks, the former BYU star has looked like a completely different quarterback. Against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in week 4, Zach Wilson completed 28 of 39 passes for 245 yards and two scores. According to this news article from Overtime Heroics, Wilson finished the game with a 105.2 passer rating, the best mark of his young career, despite a costly late fumble. He followed that up with a solid performance on the road in Denver. The stats weren’t anything special, but Wilson once again broke the 70% completion mark in a 31-21 victory for the Jets. There is plenty of room for improvement, but there are some encouraging signs, especially when you consider how broken Zach looked at the end of last season.
So, what’s changed to transform Wilson from a draft bust to showing some signs of life? Well, it starts with confidence. Many of Wilson’s troubles last year stemmed from a complete lack of it, which led to an inability to make even the simplest throws on occasion. Whether it was throwing screens into the dirt or sailing balls miles over a receiver’s head on five-yard slants, he almost seemed to have a case of the yips, something that’s usually seen in baseball.
Luckily, he appears to have shaken off this issue in 2023. Wilson has been much more consistent at hitting his targets in short-yardage situations, completing nearly 96% of his throws behind the line of scrimmage and nearly 85% within nine yards. These numbers rank 16th and 12th among QBs, respectively, which, while not elite, is a massive improvement from dead last the year before.
One thing that has helped Zach Wilson out is the return of running back Breece Hall, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL. Hall’s explosive speed out of the backfield has really helped open up the field for Wilson, and it’s no coincidence that the Jets won all three games last season where Hall got 10+ carries and are 2-0 this year when he cracks 100 yards.
Despite Wilson’s uptick in form, he’s still a long way from leading the league in any significant statistical categories. As per the bookies like BetMGM that offer NFL odds, Zach Wilson is at +10000 to lead the league in passing yards, and odds aren’t even available on him to be named regular season MVP. His red zone struggles are the biggest issue he, and the offense, faces right now. Zach has been able to limit his interceptions, but until he gets the ball in the end zone it won’t be enough.
That being said, this Jets team doesn’t necessarily need an elite quarterback to succeed. With one of the best defenses in the league and dynamic young skill players, a QB who makes accurate reads and can limit turnovers should be enough to get this team places. Can Zach Wilson be that guy? After the last two weeks, the answer might just be yes.