Jets’ Wilson wasn’t ready to return so soon from reboot
Zach Wilson’s reset needed more time.
The New York Jets benched the second-year quarterback for three games so he could work on his mechanics, fundamentals and mental approach.
But Wilson was forced back into action in the middle of a playoff push because of Mike White’s rib injury — and the flaws in his game are still very much present. And perhaps worse than ever.
Being replaced by Chris Streveler, a fourth-string practice squad quarterback, in a 19-3 loss to Jacksonville on Thursday night to give the offense a spark was further evidence Wilson isn’t the guy the Jets hoped for when they drafted him No. 2 overall last year.
And the Jets (7-8) have gone from playoff contenders to a team on a four-game skid with serious questions about its future at the quarterback spot.
“I don’t second-guess any decisions that we made,” coach Robert Saleh said Friday. “Some of them were forced because of injury, some of them were looking at the players on the team, and the quarterback is the most important position on the team. If the quarterback is playing well, everything falls into place.
“Feel like we have a damn good defense, our run game was going pretty good (and) it’s kind of failed us the last couple of weeks. Again, starts with us. And getting good quarterback play is what gets every team over the hump.”
Saleh pointed to the Jets’ last four opponents — Minnesota, Buffalo, Detroit and Jacksonville — having exactly that against them.
“This is the time for defenses and quarterback play to elevate, along with the run game,” Saleh said.
In the short-term, the Jets don’t have that difficult a decision: If White is healthy enough to play at Seattle on Jan. 1, he’ll be under center. Saleh said the team will hold off on determining their starting quarterback until more evaluations and tests are done on White’s broken ribs over the weekend and early next week.
But if White can’t play, it’s uncertain if it’ll be Wilson or Joe Flacco — or even Streveler — in his place.
“We’ve got time,” Saleh said. “I don’t have those answers for you yet.”
While the Jets insisted they liked where Wilson was physically after sitting out three games, it was unrealistic to think his issues could be totally fixed in that short a time.
And now there’s another major factor in the big picture for Wilson.
“Confidence is a big deal,” Saleh said. “It’s a tough thing to try to overcome, but it doesn’t take much to flip confidence.
“He just needs to get on a little run, just a couple things happen, go his way.”
Hopefully the antacids frustrated Jets fans were probably popping as they watched their team’s playoff hopes all but fizzle out on a cold, wet and windy night at MetLife Stadium. The Jets are on the verge of missing the postseason for the 12th straight season, the longest active skid in the NFL.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
What doesn’t? The coaching, the quarterback, the running game, the offensive line are all culprits. The defense has been solid all season, but even Jeff Ulbrich’s unit has been susceptible to breakdowns — such as the 96-yard touchdown drive engineered by Trevor Lawrence.
“It’s absolutely not our standard,” Ulbrich said. “To give up a 96-yard drive is not acceptable, by any means.”
Streveler. The former CFL quarterback who helped lead Winnipeg to the Grey Cup during the 2019 season topped the Jets in rushing with 54 yards on nine carries. He was 10 of 15 for 90 yards, although most of his throws were hardly crisp. But on a night when Wilson and the offense struggled mightily, Streveler was a bright spot.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. The focus has been on Wilson, and deservedly so. But LaFleur has failed to put the quarterback in a position to succeed by switching things up in his play calling. Wilson has shown he’s more effective out of the pocket, especially with a porous offensive line. But there has been little deviation from that by LaFleur, who declined to say why other quarterbacks not named Wilson have made plays in his offense.
“I’m not trying to compare Zach to all the other guys,” LaFLeur said. “I’ve got to figure it out and figure out how to get him in a rhythm and I haven’t done that.”
The Jets came out of the game without any new injuries. The status of White’s ribs will be the focus as New York begins preparations for their game at Seattle.
72.8 — Wilson’s passer rating is the second worst among second-year quarterbacks in the last 15 seasons with a minimum of eight starts. The only player worse was the Rams’ Sam Bradford at 70.5 in 2011. And yes, that even includes Denver’s Tim Tebow (72.9 in 2011).
The Jets are barely in the postseason hunt and finish with two road games, at Seattle and Miami.
“Thinking playoffs is far-fetched,” Saleh said. “But at the same time, we’ve done a lot of really, really cool things this year and the most important thing right now is finishing strong.”
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed.
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