September 20, 2021

Should the New York Jets Already Be Worried About Rookie QB Zach Wilson?

The Jets are in a dark place right now. 

After ditching draft bust Sam Darnold in the offseason for a fancy new passer in Zach Wilson, the BYU product has struggled mightily to start his rookie campaign, highlighted (lowlighted?) by throwing four interceptions against the New England Patriots on Sunday. 

While it's too early to call this year's No. 2 pick a bust, is it time to hit the panic button on Wilson? 

The "Peyton Manning Rookie Season" Defense

Fans of struggling rookie teams love to point to the fact that future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning threw a rookie-record 28 interceptions in his 3-13 rookie season. 

The problem is that was 1998 and the NFL has completely changed since then. Offenses, like the supposedly QB-friendly scheme that the Jets run, are risk-averse and should help limit turnovers in an offense that attacks more horizontally than vertically.  

Yes, Manning struggled his rookie year, but he wouldn't come close to that number if he was a rookie in 2021. The Jets are clearly hoping that Wilson is the second coming of Manning, but don't hold your breath. 

Wilson hasn't looked like the second-best quarterback to be selected in the latest draft, sure, but his team isn't doing him any favors. 

Offseason Issues

The Jets tried to build around their rookie QB in the offseason, but it hasn't helped so far. 

Corey Davis appears to be one of the steals of the offseason, but the rest of the Jets' moves haven't quite worked out. New York is still waiting for second-rounder Elijah Moore to live up to the training camp hype while the offensive line is absolutely atrocious. 

The massive loss of Mekhi Becton has torpedoed this offense and any chance Wilson had of staying upright in the pocket. The easiest way to ruin a young passer is by not protecting him and Wilson is in for a world of hurt unless the Jets can improve quickly.

New York also didn't bring in a veteran QB as a mentor, an insurance policy and a punching bag in case the line fell apart like it did. 

It also didn't help that Wilson had to take on the rookie-QB destroyer Bill Belichick. 

The Home-Opening Disaster

It was always going to be tough sledding for Wilson, but his disastrous play against the Patriots on Sunday should cause plenty of concern in the Big Apple. 

While nobody expected Wilson to light it up early in the campaign, he didn't exactly show many signs of promise in Week 2. 

Wilson finished the first half completing just 3-of-7 passes for a paltry 45 yards and three interceptions. What makes matters worse is that all three interceptions came on bad decisions, not errors from the offensive line. 

That line, of course, didn't help much, though. 

Wilson finished the game completing 19-of-33 passes for 210 yards, four interceptions, and a QBR of 8.8 as the Patriots won 26-6. 

Are Promising Days Ahead?

I was never very high on Wilson coming out of BYU. One-year wonders bust more often than not, and Wilson might be another example of that. 

In the Jets' Kyle Shanahan-influenced offense, it typically takes veteran quarterback multiple years to be proficient. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, for example, both won the MVP in their second season in Shanahan's outside-zone offense. If it took two former MVPs more than a year to get the offense down then it'll probably be much tougher for a rookie who isn't surrounded by the kind of talent those passers were. 

Wilson is clearly struggling to see the defense and making proper decisions. 

A rookie quarterback, a rookie head coach, one of the worst offensive lines in football, a fairly average skill room, and possibly the worst ownership in football make it hard to have any optimism in the Jets. 

Now, are the Jets fixable? Of course they are, but it will take a lot of time, which Wilson might not have if he keeps playing like this. 

Photo: Getty Images