Jets’ Zach Wilson’s Next-Level Preparation May ‘Violate Player Rules’

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson smiles during warm ups on August 21, 2021.

Ever since the start of OTAs, we’ve heard this New York Jets coaching staff rave about Zach Wilson’s dedication and work ethic off the field in film rooms and meetings.

Head coach Robert Saleh called him a “relentless” learner, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur labeled him as a “film junkie,” and even the late Greg Knapp referred to him as a “fast study” (rest in peace).

Would it really be a surprise if you found out that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was equally impressed by the rookie quarterback? In his September 9 press conference, Wilson’s process came up and the answer from ‘Brick’ got some laughs out of the media.

Ulbrich was responding to a question on whether or not the signal-caller comes to his office to talk defensive concepts, and that discussion led to this humorous sound-bite.

“I could definitely see us starting that dialogue [in the future], I mean he’s a guy that — [asks team staff member] are there hour rules for the players right now? — If there were he’s violating all those rules because he is here it seems like as long as we are.”

By we, Ulbrich meant the coaches, which is just some more high praise for the diligent 22-year old who apparently never leaves the team facilities.

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Game Week No Different From Practice

OC Mike LaFleur Week 1 Press Conference | New York Jets | NFLOC Mike LaFleur speaks to the media on Thursday of Panthers week. Subscribe to the New York Jets YT Channel: For more Jets NFL Action: #NewYorkJets #Jets #NFL For more Jets action:

LaFleur had more positive things to say about Wilson’s preparation as well during his press conference on September 9.

“It’s just all ball, all the time with him. Like I’ve always said, he prepares for a practice — I would say in terms of before preseason even started — no different than he’s preparing now, he’s ultra prepared. So I think he’s excited to obviously get out there and compete, I think that’s what these guys love to do the most, but he really enjoys the process of it and for me, I haven’t seen a change in him at all.”

He continued later on: “In terms of just his preparation and how he goes about his day, it’s not rookie-like but at the same time it’s how you should act as a quarterback.”

The Jets OC also emphasized that the biggest difference from college to the NFL is “just how important each play is.” Wilson must limit mistakes at the pro-level, just like he did his junior season. If he can do that, Gang Green can keep themselves in games.

Saleh seconded his coordinators on September 8, adding that practice may actually be tougher than a game in certain situations. “It’s all about preparation,” he said, “with the Green & White [scrimmage], we were still in practice mode so it’s not necessarily a game plan so we’re throwing a lot of stuff defensively. [Then] it’s random play-calling on offense and you’re just playing football.”

He continued: “You can get more amped [in a scrimmage] because you’re not in control of the situation because you’re not exactly prepped for the moment… With gameday, his amp is not going to be because he’s not prepared — he’s going to have the game plan, he’s going to know what he’s looking for, he’s going to know the play-calls that are coming in with the first 15 — it’s just going to be excitement.”

The head coach explained that his QB must “stay in the moment,” rather than trying to play hero ball all by himself.

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The Moment Never Seems Too Big for Wilson

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‘Coach Wilson’ was recently named a team captain as a first-year player, and part of that is because he leads by example. Just hearing him discuss the Carolina defense in his press conference on September 8, you can tell that he’s studied it inside and out.

The BYU product even managed to remain all business when he was asked if his first NFL game was a dream come true. “I’m really just doing everything I can to just get ready for [the Panthers game]… I’m just excited to get back to playing football again and just making sure I do everything I can day in and day out to have the right routine to just get ready for this game.”

As for his personality on game day, Wilson characterized himself as a mix of intensity and calm. “I’m not that super vocal guy that’s always chanting, getting guys going, that sort of thing, but I feel like I am there when guys need a little bit of a pick me up and the encouragement [and] trust, that I feel like they know I got their back. When game day comes, I’ll make sure everybody hears from me a little bit but I’m not a huge rah-rah guy.”

Game day is here Jets fans. With kick-off just a few hours away, Wilson can finally put all that rigor and preparation into a real NFL game. Hopefully, it’s the first of many in what becomes a long and fruitful career in New York.

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