2 takeaways from Zach Wilson’s Jets debut vs. Panthers
The New York Jets selected Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the failed Sam Darnold era officially behind them, the Jets are looking to Wilson to be their quarterback of the future. The Zach Wilson era officially got underway in Week 1 against Darnold and the Carolina Panthers, so let’s look at a couple of takeaways from Wilson’s NFL debut with the Jets.
Like Lawrence, Wilson suffered a tough road loss in his first NFL start, taking home a 19-14 defeat. The BYU product had a rather pedestrian line of 258 yards on 20-of-37 passing to go along with two touchdowns and an interception. This added up to a quarterback rating of 82.9.
Still, while this isn’t great, there’s one big thing to like about Zach Wilson’s debut, but it’s tied to something that could be a big problem for the rookie moving forward.
2 takeaways from Zach Wilson’s Jets debut
1. Zach Wilson responded well to adversity
Wilson and the Jets got off to an awful offensive start. They didn’t score a single point in the first half as they fell behind 16-0. The numbers were truly ugly:
Zach Wilson Passing in 1st Half:
0-of-4 on 3rd down
0-of-4 vs blitz
0-of-7 under duress
0-of-4 on play action
0-of-3 on deep passes (15+ air yds) pic.twitter.com/iFcStlaV4D
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 12, 2021
Wilson completed 6-of-16 passes for 84 yards and an interception in the first half while being constantly under duress. New York had just 82 yards of offense by halftime, all while Darnold and the Panthers crushed their defense.
However, Wilson responded nicely in the second half. He led a pair of touchdown drives to help get the Jets back in the game to give them a chance, including a 93-yard march late in the fourth quarter.
While you could certainly argue that some of this was the product of the Panthers letting up on defense so as not to give up any big plays, it was still nice to see Wilson bounce back from the awful start to finish with a competent showing. He didn’t panic and completely fall apart with bad turnovers (he did also have one fumble, though he recovered), which is a plus given the amount of pressure he was under.
While Darnold outplayed Wilson, which will surely have some wondering if the Jets made they right call (hint: they did), the Jets youngster showed why he was the No. 2 pick in the draft. Rookie quarterbacks typically struggle in their first start and often in their first season altogether, so Wilson showing some moxie in the second half was nice.
2. The Jets’ offensive line is a problem
Speaking of all that pressure Wilson was under, he was sacked six times in the game and was generally running for his life. The Jets also had no semblance of a running game, rushing for just 45 yards on 17 carries.
It seems as if this offensive line is going to be a major problem for Wilson, and it didn’t help that left tackle Mekhi Becton is going to miss at least a month due to knee surgery.
It’s already tough enough for a rookie quarterback to have a lot of success even with good blocking and weapons around him. But if he’s constantly getting pressured, it’s just about downright impossible.
So, again, while Wilson didn’t have the most impressive NFL debut, what he was able to accomplish despite a porous offensive line should at least bring some hope to Jets fans. Wilson and New York might not be any good this season, but there’s reason to believe his outcome will be much better than Darnold’s in New York and he’ll become that quarterback of the future the franchise has been seeking.