How Zach Wilson approaches Jets’ second opportunity: ‘The worst has already happened’
Zach Wilson will get an unexpected opportunity to turn his career around and get around the Jets season in one go.
Starting quarterback Mike White was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Lions because he was not medically cleared of contact due to what he describes as multiple consecutive rib fractures he suffered last week against the Bills. Wilson, the franchise’s presumptive quarterback who was humbly demoted to an inactive third baseman for the past three games, will have his return to the field accelerated after the Jets scrapped a midweek plan to make him the primary backup to White.
“This is just a great opportunity for him to get back on track, and do what we know he’s capable of doing,” said manager Robert Saleh.
Saleh said the decision to lift Wilson before veteran Joe Flacco was made last Friday, before White was injured. When the change took effect on Wednesday, it was already clear internally that White would be a distant opportunity, so Wilson was given “the vast majority of first-team reps,” Saleh said.
The news did not surprise the Lions, who have been preparing all week to take on Wilson, according to coach Dan Campbell.
Wilson stayed after practicing his throwing methods on Friday with the practice squad’s receiver, as has been his routine throughout his time managing the scouting team. The pressure against the Lions would be magnified, when Wilson would have to shake off any distress or fear of making a mistake while working on short leash.
“The worst has already happened, hasn’t it? For me personally,” Wilson said. “I’m just going to have fun and whatever happens, it’s going to happen. I will do whatever is best for the team, and it is beyond my control if they make this change in the future.”
It might actually become a two (or more) game re-introduction of Wilson. Two-game losers and out of the running, the Jets (7-6) will have two games in five days, with a quick turnaround to face the Jaguars next Thursday. If the second overall pick of the 2021 draft plays well in this stretch, he might get his job back. If he doesn’t, his future with the Jets over the next two years of his contract becomes even more complicated.
“Of course, the mentality has to be that I’m going to do my best in every game, but I’m not going out there with any expectations of anything,” Wilson said when asked about trying to regain his position. “As with winning and play-offs, that sort of thing takes care of himself if you do the things you’re supposed to do.”
After missing the first three games of the season, Wilson went 5-2 as a starter but completed only 55.6 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Poor fundamentals, especially incoherent footwork, played a role in his seat. Can mechanics really be fixed in three weeks?
“I don’t think it’s impossible,” Saleh said. “He’s had two of his best days throwing in practice. Training, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter. We have to do it on Sunday. He’s been doing a really good job of finding the fulfillment and getting the ball exactly where he needs it. For him. It just makes it easy and easy, in terms of putting your feet in the direction they need to go, conditioning your body, and presenting football the way he knows best.”
Wilson’s sit-down coincided with an apology to his teammates for a comment he made after the 10-3 offensive loss to the Patriots in which he did not take responsibility for letting the defense down. Saleh does not expect the differences to exist.
“I was talking to some of the guys after that team meeting and we were like, ‘It’s going to be hard for me to say now and not choke,’ especially after [my benching] Just announced,” CJ Uzumah told The Post. “It’s gone really well, he’s got a lot of respect from the players and we’re rocking him. Overall, we want him to succeed. We’re excited for him to give his best.”
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