Jets’ Coaches Back Young QB Room, Call Zach Wilson a ‘Fast Study’

Zach Wilson, James Morgan, Mike White

Getty Zach Wilson (#2), James Morgan (#4) and Mike White (#5) at the New York Jets' 2021 minicamp on June 15, 2021.

Just as quickly as it began, New York Jets minicamp has ended.

The two-day mandatory period had another positive session on June 16, 2021, but now players will take some time and prepare for the real deal — training camp, which has an NFL start date of July 27.

The Jets’ quarterback room, in particular, has been under the magnifying glass all spring. Fans have rejoiced as rookie Zach Wilson has shown his true potential, but they have also clamored for a veteran backup to step in behind him.

Head coach Robert Saleh spoke on the backup QB situation during a press conference on June 15, 2021: “There’s a balancing act there, and Mike and Morgan have been doing a good job. I know they’ve had their ups and downs just like Zach has but it doesn’t mean that.. just because they’re a veteran it’s going to help a [rookie] quarterback. There’s a match that has to happen, there’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

Saleh continued: “If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, well, he’s learning just like the rookie is.” The coach explained that having a veteran is more of a; “comforting feeling, rather than trying to work your ass off to develop the quarterbacks that are already in the building.”

A reporter did ask about Nick Mullens, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback that recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but Saleh noted that after discussions they decided to pass on the free agent. Mullens was notably familiar with the Mike LaFleur system.

What’s the Verdict at Backup Quarterback?

Like we’ve heard at other positions like cornerback or linebacker, it seems the Jets would prefer to develop a backup quarterback rather than bring one in that doesn’t fit the system.

If they can mold James Morgan or Mike White into that player, then there’s no need to sign a veteran. The mentality does make sense, but the question of overall talent still remains.

Are Morgan and White good enough to serve as a viable backup should Wilson get injured?

Jets passing game specialist and ex-NFL quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp addressed the media on June 16, 2021, and he gave his opinion on the two understudies.

On Morgan, Knapp pointed out that the second-year pro might as well be considered a rookie after the pandemic negated most of his 2020 training camp. He stated: “Not only were there no preseason reps for [rookie QBs], and for that matter obviously in-season for the most part for most rookies, but you just didn’t get enough reps.”

He’s right. Out of the slim preseason reps that were available in 2020, most were awarded to starting quarterbacks in an effort to get them game-ready as fast as possible. It doesn’t help that Morgan is learning his second playbook in two seasons.

Later, when talking about plans to start Wilson Week 1, Knapp mentioned that you “can’t replace game reps.” I couldn’t help but realize Morgan has none, including preseason games. That should change in August.

White on the other hand does have preseason game reps, but not much beyond that. Knapp said when it comes to teaching younger guys, the focus has to be on “your side of the ball” first in OTAs, but that learning process then transfers to the defensive side during training camp.

He added that the biggest challenge is getting them ready for in-game adjustments against an NFL defense, but that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich help with that a lot by giving them different looks in practice.

Morgan and White (who made the throw to Michael Carter above) both seemed to improve at Jets minicamp, compared to OTAs, but fans remain hopeful for a Nick Foles trade sometime this summer.

Can Never Have Enough Wilson

In terms of the Jets QB1, Knapp had plenty of positive things to say.

The veteran coach described Wilson as a “fast study,” and said he does a great job “minimizing mistakes.” He also noted that when the first-round pick does screw up, he always learns from it.

Physically speaking, Knapp couldn’t help but praise Wilson’s “off-platform throws.” He explained that those uncoachable traits make him unique, and he attributed that to Zach’s “natural arm talent” that has the skill to “change slot directions to improve his accuracy.”

This ability to “adjust a throw during the throwing motion” is rare. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are the two modern NFL QBs that are known for this feat.

Knapp also discussed Wilson’s vision and foot speed both inside and outside of the pocket. He thinks both traits come from Zach’s basketball background as a former point guard.

The long-time NFL coach told the media that he’s been a part of young QB rooms and older ones, explaining that they both have a lot to offer. He concluded that the current Jets group is “invigorating” for him.

Aside from Nick Foles, are there any backup quarterbacks on the free-agent market that you would prefer over James Morgan and Mike White? Let us know on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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