Jets Teammate States ‘Pup’ Zach Wilson Has ‘Grown Into His Bark’

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will return against the Houston Texans in Week 12.

Sunday can’t come soon enough in Houston as New York Jets starting quarterback Zach Wilson is set to return after a four-week injury absence.

A lot has changed since the rookie’s injury, some for the worse and some for the better. For example, the Jets are virtually eliminated from playoff contention barring an incredible run of victories. At the same time, the offense has really come into its own after the bye week with the most yards per game (435.8) in the entire NFL since Week 8 according to CBS Sports.

Many fans believe the offensive resurgence has to do with Mike LaFleur making personnel adjustments — like using more wide receiver sets and fewer two-tight end formations — and getting more creative as a play-caller after his transition upstairs to the booth. Others believe having veteran quarterbacks under center rather than Wilson has been the reason.

Honestly, the answer is most likely somewhere in between. Against the Texans, we’ll find out if the 22-year old talent has learned from his elders, utilizing wiser decision-making — or as a teammate put it, transitioned from “pup” to “dog.”

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Wilson Must Show Growth

Zach Wilson Press Conference (11/24) | New York Jets | NFL | Week 10Rookie QB Zach Wilson speaks with reporters during Texans week. #NewYorkJets #Jets #NFL Subscribe to the New York Jets YT Channel: For more Jets videos: For more Jets action: Like us on Facebook: Follow us on Twitter: Follow us on Instagram: Get the App:

During a press conference on November 24, running back Ty Johnson told reporters that Wilson is “like that pup that’s grown into his bark… he’s that guy you know what I’m saying, he’s a dog.”

Most rookie quarterbacks need time to learn, especially ones like Wilson who were drafted based on potential, rather than game-readiness. Over his first five and a quarter outings, the BYU product displayed a phenomenal skill set but most times it was overshadowed by simple mistakes.

Playing “boring,” as head coach Robert Saleh labeled it. Wilson spoke on that note during his most recent presser.

In my mind it’s not boring football, it’s kind of like what I just said earlier, how can I put my team in the best decision [on] every single play? What’s the best decision for my team? Stats don’t matter, even necessarily going for the big play [doesn’t matter], what’s the highest percentage play that’s going to put us in the best situation? Maybe it’s second and 10 and somebody gets beat and I got to dirt a ball at somebody’s feet. That [would be] the best play to put us in a third and 10 rather than taking a sack or forcing a ball up… and so my mindset needs to be, make them pay once they give it to us but if they don’t, I wouldn’t call it boring football, just play football the way it should be played [and] make the decisions that they’re giving you. They’re not giving us the ball down the field so understand what we’re calling the play for and be able to get the ball to your playmakers underneath and Coach Saleh put it as boring football but in my mind it’s just playing the right way.

This kid gets it, there’s no doubt about that when you hear him speak. Now he just has to show that when the pocket breaks down and the chips fall where they lie, he can make the smart choice when he needs to and the aggressive one when it’s there.

“There’s such a balance,” Saleh explained on November 24, “you don’t want Charlie Checkdown right? You don’t want a guy that’s just going to look for the check down every time. One of [Wilson’s] super strengths is that he can push the ball downfield and get it to any part of the football field at any time so there is a balance.”

New York Daily News reporter DJ Bien-Aime asked Wilson about finding that balance between explosive and calculated. The rookie responded: “I think that’s something I’m still going to be figuring out too. As I come back I think that’s something I have figured out more — the ability to eliminate, if something doesn’t look good I need to trust what I’m seeing… there’s going to be opportunities in this game where I might walk away and be like dang I think I missed that down the field but because I was decisive and got [the ball] out of my hands we still got a play out of it. And then there’s going to be times where the defense gives us one down the field and I got to make them pay.”

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Utilizing the Playmakers

Robert Saleh Press Conference (11/24) | New York Jets | NFL | Week 12Head coach Robert Saleh speaks with reporters on Wednesday of Texans week. #NewYorkJets #Jets #NFL Subscribe to the New York Jets YT Channel: For more Jets videos: For more Jets action: Like us on Facebook: Follow us on Twitter: Follow us on Instagram: Get the App:

One of the main reasons Mike White, Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco have all been successful is the Jets’ long list of playmakers. Give Joe Douglas some credit, this franchise has not had an offensive unit with this dynamic of a group of weapons in a long time.

Coach Saleh addressed this as well. He stated: “The surrounding talent around [Wilson] has gotten a lot better over the last four weeks — the receivers are playing faster, the O-line is protecting very well, the backs have been running very well — so to slip right in and understand that the players around him have elevated, hopefully, he can take advantage of it.”

Two of those playmakers have been fellow-rookies, wide receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter. Unfortunately, the latter is now sidelined with an ankle injury but Saleh did speak on Moore’s emergence.

“I think Elijah will be the first person to tell you that his alignment has been a lot better, his get-off has been a lot better, his route-running has been a lot better, his understanding of zone and man and separation has been a lot better,” Saleh noted, “so Elijah’s been getting better outside of the ball getting into his hands and so whether it’s in his hands or not, he still has a lot of room to get better.”

Wilson agreed that he was excited about this special trio long-term, adding that “we’re all going to lean on each other — me and all the rookies, defensive guys too — we’re all going through this thing together.”

In terms of the key improvements Wilson hopes to make upon his return, he highlighted that he would like to “play fast, play with my natural feel that I was given, play within the structure of the offense, and let my playmakers make plays.”

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