After a rollercoaster rookie season for Zach Wilson, most New York Jets fans would be happy with fewer turnovers and a modest jump into the middle of the NFL pack for quarterback rating — but why not shoot for the stars?
The Jets signal-caller might be set up with the best supporting cast this franchise has given a QB since Mark Sanchez when you consider the strength of the offensive line, tight ends, and playmakers. If Wilson is the long-term answer, it’d be nice to see him harness his potential within this unit.
At least, that’s the thought process from Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay.
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Wilson a ‘Dark Horse’ to Lead NFL in Touchdown Passes
During a May 21 article “ranking the NFL’s top dark horses to lead major offensive categories in 2022,” Wilson was the first name on Kay’s list for a key quarterback statistic: touchdown passes.
The analyst acknowledged the surprising choice before providing an explanation:
Zach Wilson did not look like the breakout star the Jets were hoping for when they drafted him No. 2 overall last year. Despite his injury-plagued and inconsistent rookie showing, the Gang Green signal-caller is poised for a successful sophomore campaign.
New York has surrounded the 22-year-old with a slew of weapons. The team’s receiving corps appears to be one of the deepest in the league following the addition of Garrett Wilson, the No. 10 overall pick last month. Wilson will link up with incumbents Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios to form a dangerous crew of pass-catchers for Wilson to target.
With rookie running back Breece Hall augmenting a backfield that already featured an up-and-coming star in Michael Carter, the Jets have set Wilson up with everything required to put up big numbers in 2022.
There was a slight disclaimer during Kay’s introduction. It stated: “While the usual superstar suspects will surely be in the running to pace their peers in these categories, here’s a look at some dark horses who could give them a run for their money.”
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So, Is it Possible?
Kay left out some of the most important players that could help Wilson achieve this goal, his tight ends.
If we’re talking touchdowns, veterans like C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin can assist. The pair combined for eight in 2021 and rookie Jeremy Ruckert found the endzone 12 times over his final three seasons at Ohio State. These aren’t just safety nets, they’re threats in this heavy play-action offense.
His blockers deserve a mention too. This offensive line was better running the rock than protecting the passer in 2021 but some of that was due to Wilson holding the football too long. A healthy Mekhi Becton would go a long way in securing the edge opposite George Fant — the Jets’ top pass-blocker last year.
Free-agent acquisition Laken Tomlinson should also help secure the 22-year-old’s blindside, as Alijah Vera-Tucker pivots to the right guard position.
Of course, the weapons at the skill positions do appeal, as Kay noted, but one unmentioned factor could determine whether this is actually attainable. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jets score a ton of touchdowns next season, they’ve built their offense to do so. The big question is, how many of those touchdowns will come through the air?
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur made an effort to run the ball inside the red zone in 2021 with 13 out of 14 rushing touchdowns coming from inside the 20. Wilson actually ran three of them himself — four total rushing TDs — but only threw nine total passing scores during his rookie year.
With more trustworthy targets at his disposal — plus more confidence in the young gunslinger — LaFleur may throw the ball more in 2022. Having said that, this is still a run-first offense that just drafted the top collegiate rusher in the draft.
Could it happen? Sure, but a lot of Wilson’s touchdown opportunities may end up in the hands of Hall, Carter, Moore and Berrios out of the backfield.