New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was one of the most talked-about prospects ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft for what he brought to the table, but it seems he’s become talked-about in a more negative light in his rookie season.
What is going on with Wilson?
For starters, it’s important to note that Wilson is simply a rookie. The transition from college to the NFL is one that should not be underestimated and is much more difficult than it looks. Having a truly great true freshman quarterback in college or first-year passer in the NFL is incredibly rare—rarer than a lot of fans and analysts in the modern era seem able to appreciate.
And, like all prospects who are taken off the board early, Wilson headed into a situation with a team that needed a lot more fixing beyond just the quarterback position. The Jets, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in Sunday’s 30-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints, have problems well-throughout, including within the unit whose job is to keep Wilson upright.
In terms of accuracy, Wilson was pretty up-and-down and has been in a lot of his appearances this season, but he didn’t appear to put the ball in harm’s way at all on Sunday—something that’s obviously a good starting point, an improvement in and of itself and can be difficult for many quarterbacks in their first year where mistakes tend to be abundant in several areas.
Wilson finished the loss to New Orleans completing 19-of-42 passes for 202 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions—he also added four carries for 33 yards. So far this season, over nine appearances, Wilson has completed 160-of-285 passes for 1,741 yards with six touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
There are a host of things Wilson needs to work on in getting consistently accurate on passes at all levels of the field and ball placement on some simpler passes, but it’s been a tough year for rookie quarterbacks in general outside of Mac Jones—Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 24-of-40 passes for 221 yards with zero touchdowns and some four interceptions in the loss to the Tennessee Titans and Justin Fields was middle-of-the-road looking purely at the passing aspect against the Green Bay Packers, completing 18-of-33 attempts for 224 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
That doesn’t mean the aforementioned players are all busts and that this is all they’ll ever be for their respective teams. Like the others, Wilson has shown flashes and playmaking ability in a short period of time—at any level, this is a nice one.
Wilson was commended frequently for his accuracy and placement on the deep ball at the college level and it’s transitioning over.
Working off-script and making things happen outside of the pocket was another thing he got praise for. It’s all still there. Wilson didn’t magically go to the NFL and turn into a completely different player, it’s a matter of adjustment.
It’s not just Wilson who needs to get better (year-to-year improvement is something that should be expected for anyone transitioning to a higher level of quite literally anything), it’s the Jets as a whole in what is a team sport after all.
It’s perhaps now an unreasonable notion that rookies can’t be rookies anymore. Good things take time and Rome wasn’t built in a day.