Zach Wilson making changes ahead of Jets return

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Zach Wilson isn’t changing who he is, but he’s ready to make the needed adjustments.

Watching three different quarterbacks across four games from the sideline, the rookie face of the franchise is ready to put his best foot forward and finish his first season with the Jets strong.

He didn’t make any bold predictions on Wednesday, as he addressed reporters ahead of his return Sunday against the Texans, but the second-overall pick did say there is one difference fans will notice when he is back under center: His ability to think less and react more.

“Play fast,” Wilson said. “Play with my natural feel that I was given to play within the structure of the offense, and let my playmakers make plays.”

Wilson suffered a second-degree posterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee in a loss to the Patriots on Oct. 24. He has been practicing with the scout team the last two weeks, and has gone through pregame workouts the previous two Sundays. The knee feels 100 percent now, he said, to the point he isn’t even thinking about it.

“I feel like I can go out there and play my game and not worry about it,” said Wilson, who will likely be backed up by Josh Johnson now that Joe Flacco and Mike White are on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

While Wilson was out, the Jets’ offense performed much better than when he was in there. Led by White, Johnson and Flacco, the unit averaged 24.5 points in the four games Wilson missed, compared to 13.3 points in the six games he played.

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) at practice
Zach Wilson had the chance to watch how other Jets quarterbacks operated the offense in his absence.
Bill Kostroun

Now, Wilson hopes to pick up where the other quarterbacks left off, if not surpass them. Before the injury, the Jets felt Wilson was making progress, even if his performance hadn’t shown any tangible improvements. He had thrown just four touchdown passes, nine interceptions and completed only 57.5 percent of his passes. He was sacked 19 times, and drew criticism for holding onto the ball too long, trying to hit a home run when singles were there for him.

“Stats don’t matter. What’s the highest percentage play that’s going to put us in the best situation?” he said. “Maybe it’s second-and-10, and somebody gets beat, and I gotta throw the ball at somebody’s feet. That’s the best play to put us in third-and-10, rather than taking a sack or forcing the ball up.

“Those big plays need to be there when they’re giving us those big plays. My mindset needs to be to make them pay when they give it to us, but if they don’t, I wouldn’t call it boring football. Just play football that way it should be played.”

Wilson said he learned a lot while he was out, in particular during White’s 405-yard passing performance in an upset of the Bengals on Oct. 31. He was impressed by how quickly White went through his progressions and got rid of the ball, allowing receivers and running backs to make plays on underneath routes.

“If something doesn’t look good, I need to trust in it,” Wilson said. “There’s going to be opportunities in this game here where I might walk away and think, ‘Dang, I missed that down the field,’ but because I was decisive, got it out of my hands, we still had a play out of it.”

Nevertheless, Wilson isn’t going to suddenly become a different quarterback. He’s still going to try to make plays down the field and extend plays with his legs. The Jets didn’t draft him to be a check-down machine. There is a happy medium he has to find.

“I [have to] play my ball,” Wilson said. “Credit to those guys, I was able to learn from their reps and everything they went through, but I got to go in there and play my game and not worry about that other stuff.”



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