Zach Wilson on Jets’ Ferocious Pass-Rush: ‘It’s Great for Us’

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Mike White (#5) goes through drills at training camp as rookie Zach Wilson (#2) watches nearby.

Zach Wilson and this New York Jets offense have struggled of late, but in training camp, you have to remember that it’s a two-way street.

“I think the fans are like me in the sense [of like], who do you cheer for, offense [or] defense?” Head coach Robert Saleh joked after the Green & White scrimmage.

One of the main reasons for the recent trouble has been a ferocious pass-rush lead by Carl Lawson and this stout defensive line. The rotational four-man front has done a terrific job at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback in a hurry, allowing the linebackers and safeties to blanket the middle of the field in coverage.

That’s how Cover-3 schemes are supposed to work, and Coach Saleh’s defenses have worked flawlessly over the years, or just about.

“Yeah it’s huge,” Wilson replied when asked if the pass-rush is preparing him for some of the NFL’s best and brightest, “I think that’s what’s so awesome about some of these tough looks our defense has given us, [because] that’s big for us, you know even if it’s not going to be like that in a game, I’m hoping the hardest looks we get are in practice.”

That last part may have been wishful thinking from the rookie but I agree with the sentiment. Practice against a top-tier defensive line and the rest of the league doesn’t seem so challenging.

Wilson continued: “It’s cool to have to feel how to step through a pocket, move around and still make throws off-balance, falling back [or] whatever it is. So, it’s great for us.”

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Camp Provides ‘Priceless’ Moments for Wilson to Absorb

If you listen to the BYU product long enough, you’ll hear a lot of the same phrases; it’s a process, how did I do on a specific play (not the practice as a whole), what can I learn today to apply tomorrow?

It’s not that Wilson is a broken record, it’s that he and this staff truly believe in the methods that they preach. After all, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur doesn’t sound all that different half the time.

“Every day is a learning process for [Wilson], he’s done some great things and there’s a lot of things that he’s going to continue to learn and that’s never going to stop,” LaFleur stated in a recent press conference. “He loves taking in information, whether it’s live bullets out there or in the meeting room,” the Jets OC added.

We’ve heard all about Wilson’s study habits and his “cerebral” football IQ, but now we’re actually witnessing this thirst for knowledge on the practice field. The rookie admitted that he’ll try and test the defense at times to see what he can get away with at the NFL level.

The young signal-caller said: “One of my goals when I came out here and I got drafted was just like, how can I adapt to his NFL game as quickly as I can? And I can’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially in practice, you know? This isn’t a game, this is where I’m learning what I can get away with and what I can’t. So there [are] times where maybe in a real game I probably wouldn’t throw that but it’s times where I’m like, let me try right here and see what I can get away with.”

He continued: “Being a quarterback, your mindset is, how can I be aggressively smart?”

Whether it’s Lawson off the edge, a Marcus Maye interception, or linebacker C.J. Mosley getting a hand on a tight-window passing attempt, Wilson is absorbing every offensive mistake like a sponge. These reps against this fast and intelligent defense, including the moments of failure, are “priceless” in Saleh’s words.

The BYU prodigy just turned 22-years old on August 3. There will be growing pains throughout the season. Jets fans must realize that before allowing pessimism to take hold.

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Wilson Is Ignoring the Outside Noise, Excited for Giants

Saleh has talked about how Wilson’s good at showing thick skin and silencing the doubters, a quality that is 100% necessary in New York. The media was curious as to how the Utah native acquired that trait.

He responded: “Yeah I think I really learned it at BYU just because [of] the ups and downs of the journey that come with playing quarterback. I understand that it’s part of the position [and] I think that there [are] a lot more pros than there [are] cons, [but] it doesn’t really tell the story when other people are watching you. They don’t understand how detailed [the position is], and what my reads are, what I’m thinking, what a receiver is doing, they don’t understand any of that stuff and that’s why we keep our circle just within us.”

As for his first preseason game against the New York Giants, Wilson acknowledged his excitement. “It’s gonna be good to prepare, just to get back into a season [mentality]… and when we see these different opponents it’s going to be great for us.”

Unfortunately, the cross-town rivals won’t be playing their starters too much on Saturday according to NYG beat writer Zack Rosenblatt.

At the same time, it could be an opportunity for Wilson to bounce back and restore some of that confidence we saw before the scrimmage. Coach Saleh confirmed that he’ll be leading the offense for “at least [the] first quarter.”

The live-action experience will be an invaluable positive for the rookie’s development. Another positive, not facing Lawson for a change.

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