September 19 will mark the first time in NFL history that Zach Wilson and Mac Jones face-off as the starting quarterbacks for the division rival New York Jets and New England Patriots.
In theory, this could end up becoming a QB matchup that spans the next decade or two — if both rookies end up having successful careers. So you have to wonder if that means anything to the two prospects.
Wilson commented on the new-look AFC East during a press conference on September 16.
The Jets QB said: “It’s a young division now with quarterbacks, with me and Josh [Allen], and now Mac as well and Tua [Tagovailoa]. I think it’s pretty cool that these young quarterbacks are able to play at this high level and it’s just like the expectations that they put on some of these young guys nowadays, it’s cool, it’s going to be a fun challenge for all of us every single week playing against the division.”
Jones was also asked about the BYU product in a press conference on September 15.
“I don’t know [Wilson] that well, I met him one time and he seems like a great guy,” he told reporters, “he’s a great player and he makes a lot of really cool and different plays, and yeah, he’s a really good quarterback.”
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Wilson Accidentally Disrespects Jones
Earlier in the interview, Wilson was asked if he ever studied Jones’ college tape to improve his game and the reaction was somewhat disrespectful, even if the BYU star didn’t intend it to be.
“I mean no disrespect to Mac, but no,” he responded with a laugh. Wilson went on to say that he thinks their “games are just different,” and that Jones is a “great player.”
The Jets signal-caller did walk back the comments slightly, saying that BYU definitely “stole things” from Alabama’s playbook, adding that he watched film from professional quarterbacks, rather than fellow college quarterbacks.
The question caught Wilson off-guard, creating a viral moment of sorts, but there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between the two rookies.
“I was excited for him and his opportunity, [he’s] super cool… it’s not like me and him are really competing for a spot, I got to go to my team and he got to go to his, all those quarterbacks coming out of the draft you really hope the best for,” Wilson concluded.
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Wilson Can Do Things That Jones Cannot
Although the two youngsters seem to share the same work ethic and passion for the sport, they do have different skill sets which we’ve discussed in the past.
Wilson has been displaying his ability to scramble more and more as of late, which we didn’t see as much in the preseason due to a concerted effort to get a feel for the pocket. This is an area that the Jets rookie has the Pats rookie beat.
That improvisation, mobility and elusiveness is something that head coach Robert Saleh has spoke about on September 17.
“What was great about [Wilson] was, it seemed like the more pressure [there was], the better he got,” the Jets HC explained. Later he added: “You saw it in college, his off-schedule stuff… then you get in a game and leading up to it I remember asking [Mike] LaFleur, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen when he gets hit for the first time, you think he’s going to fumble?’ Then shoot his first shot was Brian Burns on the no-look, I was like ‘oh god!’ But he held onto it and then he popped back up, he had a free runner and then he made him miss, I was like ‘damn this kid’s got a really cool feel in the pocket that we weren’t able to see because we were trying to be disciplined in practice.’ He’s a tremendous young man.”
Wilson noted that the “ability in the game to just kind of feel when to get out and when not to just kind of naturally comes back, I think you just have that backyard football player in you sometimes when you need it.”
If the BYU product can continue to harness these special traits as he did during the second half of Week 1, he can keep this Patriots defense off-balance on Sunday.
Saleh spoke highly of Jones as well, calling him an “impressive young man.” He continued: “[Jones] was every bit as deserving of a first-round draft choice — decisive, strong arm, very very accurate, very very smart… he shows poise and all that, so it’s not surprising to see him have success in his first game.”
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