It’s been a really rough week for New York Jets fans between the rash of injuries and the news that edge rusher Carl Lawson’s would be season-ending.
Fortunately, 2021 second overall pick Zach Wilson saved the day with a studly performance against the Green Bay Packers. Preseason week one was poised, yet unspectacular for the rookie quarterback.
On August 21, Wilson made Jets fans dream again.
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Wilson Shows Superstar Potential at Lambeau Field
The BYU product wasn’t just good today, he was phenomenal. In the same stadium that has seen legendary signal-callers like Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers — who watched from the opposing sideline — Wilson put the NFL world on notice.
Many around the league have gone out of their way to question the Jets’ decision to draft Wilson, labeling the rookie a bust before his first NFL start. Now the Utah native is beginning to shut those people up like head coach Robert Saleh predicted he could.
In what can only be described as a sensational stat-line, Wilson posted a near-perfect passer rating in the early evening matinee. His final numbers; 9 for 11 with 128 passing yards (11.6 per completion) and two touchdowns through the air with zero turnovers or sacks against.
That equated to a 154.7 NFL passer rating. For those who don’t know, a perfect score would be a 158.3 rating.
Yes, it was against Green Bay’s backups, but Wilson was surrounded by plenty of second-team players himself. Besides Corey Davis, he was without plenty of weapons like wide receivers like Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The rookie also played with a third-string left guard in Dan Feeney — second-string after the Alex Lewis retirement — and a backup right tackle in George Fant.
That didn’t slow Wilson down whatsoever on Saturday, completing pass after pass with rhymic confidence. It started right from the first drive, in a game where the rookie ended up playing the majority of the first half (Mike White took over for the final two minutes).
Wilson hit Davis on a third and long for a 24-yard gainer, his first passing attempt of the game. One thing about the BYU playmaker that I’ve noticed, he’s a certified third-down bandit and his main partner in crime is the former Tennessee Titans wide-out.
Put it this way, if Wilson is Butch Cassidy, Davis has been the Sundance Kid so far this summer — except the quarterback is the one with the precision aim.
After a 17-yard link-up with fullback Trevon Wesco, the Jets settled for a field goal on possession one. Drive two was actually his worst of the game, although it wasn’t on the young QB. Wilson hit Jeff Smith for a first down before the Jets came up one yard short on three straight runs. Coach Saleh decided to play it safe and punt from midfield.
Drive three was a thing of beauty, and it began with a rare miss directed at Davis. From there, Wilson went right back to his favorite target not once but twice, hitting the WR1 for back-to-back 14 and 27-yard completions. The second was an off-balance back-shoulder ball that showed off a ton of that arm talent that we always hear scouts praise Wilson for.
Then down at the opposing 18-yard line, it finally happened, the top prospect threw his initial touchdown with the franchise on a pass over the middle to Tyler Kroft. The ball placement was impressive all game for the passer and that play was no different, as he lofted the ball just over a defender and fit it into the tight end at the goal line.
That was a march by Wilson, the second TD-drive was a sprint, and the bulk of the legwork was done by kick returner Corey Ballentine on a 73-yard bring-back. The rookie QB finished things off on his first pass, which ironically was another 18-yard touchdown toss to Kroft. This one was a credit to offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who drew up a textbook bootleg score.
A flawless ending to an exemplary day that ended in the Jets’ second preseason victory by a score of 23-14.
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LaFleur-Wilson Connection Heats Up
Wilson and Davis wasn’t the only connection that was on fire on Saturday, as the playcalling was miles ahead of anything Adam Gase ever cooked up for New York.
LaFleur was on the numbers yet again, dialing up the recipe as Wilson made magic.
In three outings as a team, the partnership between the OC and QB has gotten better and better. The worst was obviously the Green & White scrimmage against their own defense, with the best being in Green Bay.
That brings up an interesting debate. Coach Saleh has been encouraging LaFleur to spend his games on the sidelines, while the first-year coordinator prefers calling plays from the booth.
The results speak for themselves. LaFleur was in the booth for the scrimmage, communicating with Wilson using a headset. For both preseason games, he was on the field. After the New York Giants opener, the BYU product told reporters that he didn’t have a preference for the coordinator’s location.
“It’s great both ways because we’re still able to have that communication,” Wilson said, “if he prefers to be up there then that’s great but it’s awesome to come off [the field] and you can just talk directly right there to him and go through the calls and stuff together.”
This will be something to monitor as the preseason and regular season develop. Right now it definitely feels like the rookie prefers to speak with LaFleur directly.
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