FLOURHAM PARK, NJ — The New York Jets are entrusting their fading playoff hopes to Zack Wilson, who will be the starting quarterback Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Coach Robert Saleh, who announced the decision Tuesday, made it seem like he didn’t have much of a choice. Mike White, who fractured his ribs nine days ago and sat out Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, was not healed by doctors, according to Saleh.
They have not ruled out White for the last two matches, with Saleh describing it as a “week-to-week assessment”.
According to ESPN analytics, the Jets (7-7) have lost three straight times and have only a 13% chance of making the playoffs. Their place in the standings will likely have an impact on next week’s quarterback selection. If they are still in contention and White is allowed to call, it will set the stage for a major decision.
For now, Saleh is doing his best to stick around Wilson, who got off to an uneven start against the Lions in a 20-17 loss.
“There have been quarterbacks throughout history who needed a little bit more time to find their groove,” Saleh said. So, when you see Zach, he has a lot of things that you can’t teach. You can’t teach some of the things that he does.
“For him, it’s just about learning the timing and the rhythm side, the intermediate passing game and finding that consistency for four quarters. When he’s in rhythm, and he’s hitting hard, it’s great to watch.”
Wilson, who returned from a three-game bench to face Detroit, showed his arm strength made him a second-place finisher in 2021. He was “on fire” in the first half, Saleh said.
He passed for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but missed several open receivers and threw a costly interception in the third quarter. His off-target percentage (35.3) was a season high, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
Overall, Wilson is a 5-3 as a starter. In a wild quarterback year, the Jets also started Joe Flacco (1-2) and White (1-2).
Chances are, the Jets were going to stick with White, but that changed on December 11 when he was drilled in the ribs by Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
Aware that White’s broken ribs the Jets still wanted to play him last week, he made a surprising announcement last Friday that Wilson would start against the Lions. Saleh said White was not allowed to contact an outside team or doctors.
This has not changed, it seems.
“It’s all about Mike giving him the chance to get a second opinion and him and his team making sure all the boxes are checked,” Saleh said. “From our point of view as coaches, we allow that process to happen. When everything is right, we make a decision.”
When he suspended Wilson on November 23, Saleh said his intention was to get Wilson back in the squad before the end of the season — but not like this.
In other injury developments, star defensive tackle Quinn Williams will be a gametime decision, with Saleh expressing optimism about his chances after missing out last week.
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