That concept is pretty universally accepted, what isn’t is how big of a leap he will actually take?
One popular television analyst took a stab at what that could look this week on SportsCenter.
ALL the latest Jets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Jets newsletter here!
That Would Be Historic
On a Wednesday episode of SportsCenter, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky was asked which sophomore passer is in the best position to succeed in 2022?
“New York, Zach Wilson, and I don’t really think it is close. There has been an infusion of talent in NY with three first-round picks on the offensive line. They’re young, athletic, and they have size on the perimeter. What does he need to do to really make that jump? I believe he is really in the situation that Patrick Mahomes was in his second year by allowing the pieces around him to work.”
Orlovsky pointed out two areas of improvement that Wilson has to work on to reach the next level.
“No. 1 and this is a little bit like Lamar Jackson transitioning from his rookie year to his second year. Zach would have a wide-open guy and he would short-arm a throw because he is so talented (tried to use talent to get the ball there instead of technique) it would lead to an incompletion. [If you do that] three or four times a game that really hurts your football team. So hit your layups.”
The second item that Orlovsky highlighted really goes hand-in-hand:
“In this Mike LaFleur offense ball handling and footwork is everything. [Wilson] really needs to make a jump in those two specific areas. If he does those two things and makes that jump individually with the people he has around him I really think you’re looking at 30 plus touchdowns, 10 or fewer interceptions, and pushing 4,000 yards. I honestly believe that with the people he has around him.”
Not Quite That Level of Expectations
For context, if those projections came to fruition they’d be historic on every level.
Only one quarterback in Jets history has ever thrown for 30 plus touchdowns and that was Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015. Joe Namath is the first quarterback in NFL history and the only quarterback in franchise history to get over the 4,000-yard passing mark (and he did it in 14 games).
While both of those statistical milestones would be amazing, having 10 or fewer interceptions may be the most impressive of them all.
Only five quarterbacks in Jets history have played in at least 12 games and have thrown 10 or fewer in a single season:
- Josh McCown, 2017: nine interceptions
- Chad Pennington, 2004 and 2002: nine and six interceptions respectively
- Vinny Testaverde, 1998: seven interceptions
- Neil O’Donnell, 1997: seven interceptions
- Ken O’Brien, 1990, 1988, 1987, and 1985: 10, 7, 8, and 8 interceptions respectively
Although head coach Robert Saleh simplified expectations for his second-year quarterback:
“I think Zach Wilson’s ceiling is exactly what I think he thinks his ceiling is, which is no limit to what we think he’s capable of. For him, it isn’t about being the best in the NFL today, but rather it’s about being your best.”
A valuable lesson in a day and age where everyone loves to be compared to someone else. Speaking of which Saleh brought that up during Wednesday’s media availability:
“He doesn’t need to be Tom Brady this year, now if he ends up being that it is awesome but that isn’t the expectation.”
It seemed like Saleh channeled his inner-Aunt May from the movie Spiderman when she tells Peter Parker, “you are not Superman you know.”
In other words, if Wilson just plays within himself with the talent around him, he should be just fine. We all know he has the superhero ability, but he won’t have to solely rely on it to make plays and move the chains in this offense in 2022.