Zach Wilson’s Rocky Start With Jets Mirrors 2020 MVP Finalist

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson rolls outside of the pocket on September 12, 2021.

The New York Jets offense has not gotten off to a great start and while that’s not all on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, his gunslinger style of play has come with its ups and downs.

There’s no question, the BYU star can be a roller coaster ride under center. His improvisations and off-platform throws produce some of the more jaw-dropping highlights in football but his first-year mistakes also tend to confuse.

Why would he force that pass? How come he didn’t throw that ball away? The little things need fine-tuning but the bigger picture could be a masterpiece.

That all-or-nothing ability is reminiscent of another recent NFL rookie quarterback and no, it’s not Patrick Mahomes. This mystery player was doubted by analysts and rivals — just as Wilson has been in 2021 — before overcoming all of that to become an MVP finalist in 2020.

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Analyst Compares Wilson to Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has flourished into one of the more dynamic players in the league. Of course, the Jets passed on the rising star in favor of Sam Darnold in 2018, but that’s ancient history now. The Green & White have a new face of the franchise and he’s starting to resemble the AFC East rival.

Michael Nania of Jets X-Factor compared the two signal-callers, tweeting out a side-by-side look at their first five career starts in the NFL.

It’s uncanny how similar the numbers are but wherever they differ, Wilson usually takes the lead. The Jets QB has four touchdowns while Allen only had two and 223.4 yards per game compared to 151.6. The one area Wilson has been worse is interceptions, with nine instead of five, but the Bills star did have two more fumbles than the 2021 rookie.

Another thing to note is that neither had the best supporting cast at the time. Both accumulated 18 sacks in their first five starts and while some of that is from holding the ball too long in an attempt to extend plays, the offensive lines definitely shared in the blame. Similarly, their sub-60 completion percentages both included dropped passes and errant routes.

Later in the afternoon, even head coach Robert Saleh noticed the similarities in the trend that puts Wilson and Allen on a comparable trajectory.

Overall, Wilson’s quarterback rating is actually 0.4 points higher than Allen’s through the same point in their respective careers.

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The League Is Changing & the Jets Found Their Guy

Others can say what they want but I’m confident that Gang Green has finally found their quarterback of the future. It’s not just the statistics that are similar to an Allen or a Mahomes, it’s the God-given talent and the outstanding potential, it’s the look, and it’s even the mistakes.

A handful of passers in the NFL can make the outside of the pocket throws that Wilson can make and these players are all becoming the new faces of the sport. Mahomes, Allen, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray. The league is changing and the Jets were smart enough to change with it, even if that means growing pains.

One example is Wilson’s ability as a pocket passer. Mike LaFleur and Robert Saleh have attempted to train their rookie QB in this regard but it doesn’t happen overnight. It took Allen a few years to hone his accuracy from the pocket and he still ranks towards the bottom of the NFL.

This doesn’t include Week 5, but Allen ranked 31st in clean pocket passer ratings through the first four weeks on Pro Football Focus. Wilson ranked 30th. Both quarterbacks do their best work on the move.

PFF has also credited Wilson with seven “big-time throws” this season compared to 10 “turnover-worthy plays.” Again, we’ll have to take the good with the bad for the time being.

It may be a bumpy ride in 2021 but the Jets must eventually harness Wilson’s potential the same way Buffalo harnessed Allen’s. With LaFleur at the wheel, this notion might terrify fans, but this is exactly what coaches mean when they constantly say “it’s a process.”

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