A clean pocket doesn’t guarantee a quarterback will have success, but it comes pretty damn close.
Zach Wilson was the best quarterback in all of college football when he had a clean pocket in 2020. At BYU last season, Wilson’s 11.5 yards per attempt when not under pressure was the best in the FBS, per NFL Network‘s Cynthia Frelund.
Of course, that was BYU and this is the NFL. At this level, Wilson isn’t expected to receive the same amount of time he got back during his days at Provo.
The former Cougar passer is coming off the best year of his collegiate career in which he passed for over 3,692 yards with a 33-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. On top of his gaudy numbers, he also proved his efficiency with a 73.5 completion percentage.
The most impressive stat, though, is BYU’s offensive line play. The Cougars only allowed 11 sacks on 336 pass attempts in 2020. Without that stellar play, Wilson wouldn’t have been half as good as the stats suggested.
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Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Hopefully, that’s how BYU feels with the New York Jets stealing a page from their playbook.
2020 simply wasn’t good enough for the green and white.
According to Statmuse, the Jets had the fourth-lowest amount of passing attempts last season (499). Despite that Gang Green still somehow allowed the ninth most sacks in the NFL (43). How is that ratio even possible?
General manager Joe Douglas is a former offensive lineman and holds the trenches in high regard, which explains why this offseason he had seen enough and decided to do everything in his power to upgrade the unit.
Douglas used every avenue at his disposal and turned over every rock to find the pieces to his new-look offensive line: the 2021 NFL draft (Alijah Vera-Tucker) and Free agency (Morgan Moses).
If you add those pieces to the holdovers on the line in Mekhi Becton and Connor McGovern, you have the recipe for a talented offensive line.
2 Big Keys to Duplicating His Success in the NFL
There’s strong evidence that suggests a great offensive line will set up Wilson to have tremendous success as a rookie, although that’s not the only thing that can make his transition to the pros even easier.
There are two keys to keep an eye out for in 2021:
Play Action Passing Game
This is the bread-and-butter of the Mike LaFleur offense he’s bringing to the green and white. Fortunately, this is a puzzle-piece fit with Wilson’s strengths.
When attempting a play-action pass, the former BYU stud gained 12.6 yards per toss (third-best in the FBS) last season. Additionally, his touchdown-to-interception ratio on such throws was 20-to-0.
In a perfect world, this will be a ground-and-pound offense that is occasionally mixed up with play action.
But with the lack of proven cornerback depth, the fear is they’ll have to get out of their game plan if and when their defense gets lit up like a Christmas tree. That would force Wilson, in theory, to just start chucking it all over the ballyard.
If executed correctly, a short passing game can be a replacement for a running game. We saw it for years with the New England Patriots and Tom Brady as they sliced-and-diced defenses with short and quick passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
This is another area that Wilson excelled at during his time in Provo, Utah.
Last season, Wilson ranked fourth in the FBS on quick passes with a 79.5 completion percentage, and he was fifth in yards per attempt on such throws, with 9.1, per Cynthia Frelund of the NFL Network.
When you combine all of these factors, it’s easy to understand why Wilson is in the best situation a Jets rookie quarterback has been in since Mark Sanchez back in 2009.
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