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Sink Or Swim Time For Wilson In Jets’ Next Two Games
The quote origin relates to baseball, but the Yogi Berra-ism, “It gets late early out there” could also be applicable to certain NFL themes. For while it may seem unfair to overreact to the Jets’ quarterback situation after a mere two games, the team shouldn’t wait until its season becomes unrecoverable before it looks into making adjustments.
That’s why Sunday’s contest versus the hated Patriots at MetLife Stadium could turn into a breaking point between the Jets and Zach Wilson.
A home loss to a division opponent who they haven’t beaten in their last 14 tries followed by what surely appears to be a rough meeting versus the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs could set the Jets back to 1-3. What will their mindset be then?
We’ve already seen some minor griping, not necessarily about Wilson but rather the offense in general, from running back Breece Hall and wide receiver Mecole Hardman. What will the mood be in ten days if adversity strikes further?
Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh doesn’t seem to run the ship with a clenched fist, as wide receivers Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson routinely gave the public the impression that they were unhappy last season. You could tell that the team rallied around backup Mike White when Wilson was benched after another desultory defeat to New England in Week 11, with players wearing t-shirts emblazoned with White’s caricature.
This wasn’t supposed to be Wilson’s show this season, with Hall of Fame bound Aaron Rodgers brought in to take Gang Green to the next level, but an unlucky Achilles tear on just the fourth snap of the opener against the Bills altered plans. The Jets rallied to shock the Bills in overtime, furthering a belief within everyone at One Jets Drive that they weren’t ready to be written off.
Only that victory was more in spite of Wilson’s performance, and the fact that he followed it up with a 30-10 dud in Dallas, where he was the lowest-measured NFL QB for the week in terms of rbsdm.com’s expected points added per play and completion percentage above expected, has put the onus back on the coaching staff to evaluate what they need at the position.
Make no mistake, Wilson has hardly been the only culprit in the team’s bottom-tier (27th in the league in points scored, 29th in yards per game) offense. He’s running for his life on many plays, with the Jets owning the league’s worst pass blocking efficiency, per ProFootballFocus.com.
Still, Wilson’s performance under pressure has always looked terrible in relation to how other quarterbacks fare against it—per PFF, he’s ranked 24th among the 30 QBs with at least 15 dropbacks in completion percentage under pressure this season after finishing dead last in the category in 2022 AND 2021.
Do you think New England Head Coach Bill Belichick hasn’t noticed? Wilson has saved some of his worst outings of his first two seasons for the Patriots. Even the game where he racked up 355 yards passing—a country mile for him—came with a lousy 49% completion rate and three killer interceptions. According to sharpfootballanaysis.com, the Pats created pressure on 46% of Wilson’s dropbacks during the previous four meetings, causing Wilson to go 15-for-42 (35.7%) for a 4.6 yards per attempt with four interceptions.
There’s quite a bit of chatter about how much Wilson looks “improved” this season—his footwork, his mannerisms, etc. Sure, you could take a play here and there where Wilson has stepped up in the pocket and delivered a precise ball. But that’s what he’s supposed to do—more often than not!
The bottom line is that it’s hard to score when you’re averaging a league-low 4.5 plays per offensive possession. The Jets have gotten some points out of explosive plays, like Hall’s 83-yard run in the opener and the 68-yard catch-and-run by Garrett Wilson last week, but that’s not what makes a sustainable offense.
Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett brushed aside the mini tempests from his players during Thursday’s media session, saying that there will never be enough touches for everybody when you can’t convert third downs. Never mind that when you ran Dalvin Cook into loaded boxes on all those 1st-and-10s, you almost guaranteed a third-down conversion would become necessary.
Unless the Jets start winning—and soon—this is how teams break apart. You can’t convince me that Gang Green’s effort during their final three games of 2022 matched what they gave earlier in the season. Losing faith probably had a lot to do with it.
I’m not saying that the Jets will immediately go into the tank this soon, but remember that their goal, even without Rodgers on the field, remains qualifying for the playoffs. The AFC isn’t the conference where you can get away with falling too far behind in the race.
The Jets have to date resisted the urge to bring in another quarterback other than promoting Tim Boyle from the practice squad to serve as QB2. It’s logical, since the last thing Wilson needed was having a veteran standing on the sideline itching to get in. Let him sink or swim on his own.
But two more losses should serve as a sinking point. I know the other options aren’t great, but remember that Mike White (!) looked a heck of a lot more comfortable operating an NFL offense while serving with the Jets putrid o-line than Wilson ever did. Who’s to say that someone like Colt McCoy couldn’t hold down the fort in a similar manner?
Obviously, a Jets victory on Sunday obviates all of the above. But an NFL organization’s job is to prepare for foreseeable contingencies. And Wilson stinking up the MetLife Stadium joint twice more over the next ten days is certainly foreseeable.
The Jets won’t even have completed a quarter of the schedule by the end of next week, but if they wait longer to address their QB mess, it will probably be too late.
Prediction: Patriots 16 Jets 9