Zach Wilson needs to show improvement for himself and for Jets

Asia's Tech News Daily

Zach Wilson returned on Sunday after missing four games with a knee injury.

But was he better than when he left?

This is undoubtedly a question the Jets’ coaches are asking themselves about their rookie quarterback after his lukewarm return to play in Sunday’s 21-14 win over the Texans at NRG Stadium.

The cold, hard answer to that question, based on the way he performed in Houston, is that, no, he wasn’t any better than he was before he was hurt.

Wilson showed the same troubling tendencies that were on display before the injury — a propensity to start slowly, looking unsure about some of his decision-making, and throwing the ball with too much pace on short passes, giving his receivers little chance to make the catch.

The good news is the Jets won the game.

The bad news is they won almost in spite of Wilson’s early struggles.

More good news: Wilson, as he’s shown a tendency to do in his seven NFL games, played markedly better in the second half. He started 1 of 6 and finished the first half 6 of 12 for 44 yards, an interception (his 10th of the season) and a paltry passer rating of 24.3. He was 8 of 12 for 101 yards and no turnovers in the second half. Much better.

Bill Parcells always said quarterbacks are measured by how often they get their team into the end zone. Wilson, who was 14 of 24 for 145 yards, one INT and a 58.5 rating for the game, led the team to two TDs, which isn’t usually enough to win in today’s NFL.

jets, robert saleh, zach wilson

Zach Wilson’s return from injury didn’t show much of what he supposedly learned while on the sidelines.

Getty Images

The best news of all for Wilson and the Jets is this: He’s played in only seven games, winning two and losing five, and that’s far too small a sample size to be pulling any fire alarms.

It’s just that, with six games remaining, the Jets are running out of time to evaluate Wilson, who hopefully will be able to stay on the field without injury the rest of the way.

After the Texans game, Jets coach Robert Saleh said Wilson “obviously” had “a little rust there after a month” of missed games.

Understandable.

Saleh said Wilson “managed the game well.”

This may sound nitpicky considering Wilson’s inexperience, but teams don’t use No. 2-overall picks for quarterbacks who manage games well. They use those premium picks to find quarterbacks to elevate those around them and, when needed, carry the team on his shoulders.

Wilson clearly has the will. He just hasn’t found the way yet.

Wilson has not shown the ability to make those around him better or carry the team. Not yet. But to be fair, few quarterbacks seven games into their NFL careers have delivered a lot of those kinds of performances.

Before Wilson can do that, he needs to do the little things better, like learn how to throw those short, high-percentage passes with better touch so his receivers can catch them.

“He’ll figure all that stuff out,” Saleh said.

“I’ve got to adjust,” Wilson said after the game. “And I will.”

He has to, because quarterbacks whose completion percentage is consistently south of 60 percent don’t last long in this passing-league era. Wilson’s 57.6 completion percentage is near the bottom of the league for starters.

Just up I-95 and in the AFC East standings, fellow rookie quarterback Mac Jones is completing 70.3 percent of his passes for New England because he’s already proved to be proficient with the underneath stuff that’s supposed to be easier to execute.

jets, robert saleh, zach wilson

Robert Saleh has had plenty of positivity for Zach Wilson — but he has to.

Bill Kostroun

Saleh, who’s a bastion of positivity when it comes to his players, sounds unwavering with in his belief in Wilson because he has to be. But, if Wilson doesn’t show improvement, beginning with Sunday’s home game against the Eagles, it’s going to make Jets fans wonder whether backups Mike White or Joe Flacco give the team a better chance to win on Sundays.

The Jets are averaging 24.5 points and 435.8 yards of offense in the four games played by the backups and just 14.4 points and 271.1 yards in Wilson’s seven starts.

“It’s our job to help him get better and do everything we can for him,” Saleh said. “Was it his best game? No. Did he do a lot of things? Did he get comfortable as the game went on? Absolutely. [He] did enough to win the football game and that’s what’s most important.”

There’s no arguing that.

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