Quarterback Ranks Prove Zach Wilson, Jets Could Thrive in AFC East

Cam Newton

Getty The pocket collapses around New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton as he attempts to escape the New York Jets pass-rushers on November 9, 2020.

Earlier today on June 30, 2021, CBS Sports released a divisional ranking that could end up working in the New York Jets favor.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports identified the AFC East as the seventh weakest division in terms of quarterback prowess.

That means Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, Cam Newton (or Mac Jones) and Zach Wilson as a collective ranked lower than six other divisions in the NFL. The only group they actually beat out was the NFC East, made up of Dak Prescott, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts.

Outside of Allen and the Buffalo Bills, who are a clear step ahead in this department, this should create a competitive balance between the other three franchises in 2021.

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Even Playing Field for Wilson

NFL teams with a rookie quarterback tend to be at a disadvantage, but the Jets might not be, at least in terms of their divisional games.

The Miami Dolphins will hand over the reins to Tagovailoa, a second-year pro that sat half of his rookie campaign and struggled mightily when he played.

The New England Patriots are still trying to find their way out of the post-Tom Brady mess they’ve gotten themselves into. Currently, Newton and Jones battle it out in a lackluster quarterback competition that Pats fans will pray the rookie can win.

Then there’s the Jets, who will eventually name their second overall pick in the draft the Week 1 starter in a trial by fire.

This could be one of the toughest divisions in football from a defensive perspective. Between Bill Belichick, Robert Saleh, Sean McDermott and Brian Flores you have some of the greatest defensive minds in the modern-day NFL.

No AFC East quarterback will have it easy in these divisional games, not even Allen who finished second in the NFL MVP voting in 2020.

These matchups could come down to which signal-callers make the least mistakes, and that’s actually where Wilson and the Jets could capitalize on two major strengths.

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Wilson & Saleh Could Form Winning Combination

During his junior season at BYU, Wilson had an elite touchdown to interception ratio of 33-3. He also didn’t have a single fumble during his three-year collegiate career, which is almost the opposite of Jets’ former quarterback Sam Darnold.

Obviously, the level of play will be higher in the NFL but the Jets have taken various precautions to ensure a smooth transition for the rookie between bulking up on the offensive line and the wide receiving core this offseason.

As long as offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can minimize risk and take the pressure off Wilson throughout the season, he should be able to continue his success as an accurate passer.

At the same time, Tagovailoa and Newton have had some trouble in this regard. The Dolphins quarterback turned the ball over six times in 2020 (five interceptions) and only threw 11 touchdowns in comparison.

He also had a rough minicamp against his own defense, with five interceptions in one practice.

Newton was worse, with 10 interceptions compared to eight passing touchdowns during his first season with the Patriots. He did rush for 12 scores but was no less of a liability as a runner with six fumbles on the year.

Allen is known to be a risk-taker as well, with 31 interceptions and 31 fumbles in three NFL seasons.

How does Coach Saleh factor in? As a defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, Saleh’s unit ranked sixth in takeaways in 2019, a season that culminated in a Super Bowl appearance.

His pressure-heavy scheme is famous for influencing a quarterback’s decision-making process, which could prove fruitful against the QBs of the AFC East.

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