Although both teams were eliminated from postseason contention, Week 16 had meaning for the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.
It marked the first time that rookie quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence would face off against one another, and hopefully not the last.
As it often goes with QB draft classes, these two franchise “saviors” will be linked for the remainder of their NFL careers as the number one and number two overall picks in 2021. We’ve seen this recently with Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
It will be the same story with Lawrence, Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
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Brotherhood Between Rivals
The BYU product may have gotten the better of the Clemson talent in round one but the postgame chat between the two was centered around mutual respect according to Wilson.
“Yeah, you know really just keep going,” the Jets rookie responded when asked what they discussed on the field together. “He did a great job, he’s going through the same thing I’m going through. We’re both learning and he put together a great drive right there [on the final possession] so he’s improving every single week just like I’m trying to.”
Wilson also revealed his message of comradery to Lawrence. “So I told him we’ll stay in touch and I just hope the best for him,” he voiced.
The Jets and Jags aren’t in direct competition most seasons but they could become AFC playoff rivals if all goes according to plan for the two youngsters. For now, both rookies are just trying to gain their footing in this league and get better every day.
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Wilson Leading After Slow Start?
Focusing only on Wilson and Lawrence, the Jacksonville signal-caller definitely began the season as the more game-ready prospect but things have shifted in the second half.
To be fair, Lawrence has gone through the wringer in year one between the Urban Meyer implosion and the lack of help on the Jaguars roster. Wilson has not had much help either after recent injuries and COVID absences, but a steady hand like Mike LaFleur has proven vital after the rocky start.
In Week 16, beat reporter Connor Hughes tweeted that “Zach Wilson looks better than Trevor Lawrence,” adding that the Jets QB is performing without “his top three receivers, his starting [left tackles], [left guard], [and right guard], [and] his head coach.”
Hughes has been extremely critical of Wilson in recent weeks, so don’t assume that this was some biased praise from Jets media.
Lawrence on the other hand has been on a miserable run of play, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions in his past eight games. He has not rushed for any scores during this span either, and he’s fumbled the ball six times (two resulted in turnovers).
Since returning from injury in Week 12, Wilson has thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also run for four TDs and fumbled twice (one resulted in a turnover).
The time on the sidelines has clearly helped the number two overall pick and perhaps the former Clemson star needs the offseason to compose himself and settle back in like Wilson has.
On the year, Lawrence still holds the small advantage in QB rating but the current trend is more important. The Jets rookie seems to be figuring it out while the Jags one may have to learn a whole new playbook in 2022.