NFL
October 1, 2021

Why Zach Wilson's Struggles Should Terrify Jets Fans

The 2021 NFL rookie quarterback class was supposed to be one of the best groups to enter the league in quite some time. Five first-round passers who had impressive collegiate resumes and quality skill sets brought a unique excitement for their respective franchises.

There was no quarterback who benefited more from the desperation for star passers than BYU's Zach Wilson. The No. 2 pick in the draft experienced a similar rise that Joe Burrow enjoyed the year prior, going from an unknown prospect to the second quarterback selected.

His junior season at BYU was filled with jaw-dropping throws downfield and undeniable precision. Even considering the jump in talent he faced at BYU to the NFL, it was fair to expect Wilson to have some real "wow" moments early this season.

Three games into the year, though, Jets fans should feel some terror growing from within. Everything the Jets put together this offseason was supposed to help Wilson ease into the league. Adding Mike LaFleur at offensive coordinator, receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, and bolstering the offensive line should've given Wilson an advantageous scheme and capable playmakers.

However, the Jets' leading receiver to this point is Braxton Berrios with a measly 150 yards. Denzel Mims can't see the field, and injuries are limiting Jamison Crowder and Moore. Yet, it's hard to ignore all of the failures around Wilson when the rookie has played to his worst-case scenario to this point.

A Bumpy Takeoff

Completing just 55% of his passes for 628 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season, Wilson is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, it's not particularly close, either.

A review of his film from the first three weeks shows a 22-year-old who has no idea what he sees far too often and he's hoping the ball lands in his receiver's hands despite lurking defenders.

The majority of Wilson's impressive completions at BYU came either on broken plays outside of the pocket or when he had max protection and a wide-open receiver downfield. That doesn't mean he never hit tight windows, but he rarely had to process reads pre-snap or adjust post-snap with a defender rushing towards him.

Several of his interceptions show defenders simply undercutting the ball or moving into an obvious passing lane. Wilson continues to pat the ball instead of anticipating where his receiver will be. As a result, the turnovers will pile up until this changes.

Who's to Blame? 

No rookie passer except maybe 49ers' Trey Lance was bound to see as drastic of a jump in competition as Wilson was. None of this is to say he's bound to be a bust, but he must overcome where his mental acuity is right now before he can even start to improve upon the physical mistakes he's making in his delivery and rhythm. The Jets may not be loaded but there have been far worse surrounding casts for other rookie passers.

LaFleur absolutely deserves some of this blame as well. Coming from the Mike Shanahan tree, LaFleur has notable talent available to him and he's choosing not to use them. Even inserting Keelan Cole into the lineup would upgrade their ability as a unit to create space for Wilson to see.

The Jets seem to be declining, too, producing a whopping eight drives with four or fewer plays against Denver last week.

Is It Panic Time?

Compare how the Jets are relying on simple dropbacks and isolated routes for their receivers to win. If I hadn't known his ties to both coaching staffs, I would've guessed he was a bad imposter of a protege of Shanahan. Davis, Mims, and Crowder alone are enough firepower to create yard-after-the-catch opportunities with headache-inducing potential.

We simply haven't seen enough of the creativity to help Wilson. The offense can't rely on tricks as a foundation, which is where Wilson must improve. But they're also not mature or talented enough to win by outplaying teams, which is on LaFleur.

Jets fans have to be concerned, if not terrified, of the early-season results for both individuals. The unit is dead last in points with 20 total through three games. Continuing at this rate could mean the franchise needs to re-evaluate some of their key decisions made this past offseason, including sticking with Joe Douglas, hiring LaFleur, and even drafting Wilson No. 2 overall.

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