The New York Jets haven’t collapsed after losing Aaron Rodgers to an Achilles injury four plays into the season. The Jets are 3-3 at their Week 7 bye, in the thick of the AFC playoff race. Believe it or not, Zach Wilson is a big reason why New York stabilized after the devastating injury. And there's reason to believe that Wilson can keep the team in contention if Rodgers is able to complete a miracle comeback later this season.
Yes, the same Wilson who was so bad his first two seasons as Jets quarterback that ownership and management were willing to move heaven and earth to acquire Rodgers this past offseason.
Wilson, though, has had a different look and demeanor about him since replacing the injured Rodgers in Week 1. Rodgers has much to do with that. Since arriving in New York following a trade with the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers has taken Wilson under his wing, guiding him on and off the field.
To his credit, Wilson has soaked up Rodgers' wisdom and made some significant strides as an NFL quarterback after being thrust unexpectedly back into the starting role.
He’s still got a long way to go. And grading Wilson at the bye isn’t so easy because the go-to is to grade on a big curve considering just how bad he was since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But let’s go ahead and grade Zach Wilson since replacing Aaron Rodgers as QB1 with the Jets this season.
Zach Wilson leadership grade: B+
The 24-year-old has grown up. And as a result, he has evolved into a more respected leader and teammate.
Last season, Wilson's lack of accountability and failure to inspire trust led to his teammates rallying around backup Mike White when Wilson was benched. Of course, Wilson was benched because of his poor leadership skills as much as for poor play. And that's saying a lot.
It appears Wilson learned from his missteps, in particular his lack of accountability. Following his best game as a pro in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Wilson wore it for his team, accepting blame for the narrow 23-20 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions.
Stuff like that goes a long way. Credit Wilson for realizing past mistakes. And credit Rodgers for teaching him how to be a better pro.
Zach Wilson fundamentals grade: C
Wilson’s footwork was a mess last season. That led directly to his inability to make the simplest passes look, well, simple. Overthrown balls, bouncing passes at the feet of open receivers, missing screens and slants. Nothing was easy for Wilson.
He's worked hard to clean this up and as a result his completion percentage is over 60 percent in six games, including two straight when he completed better than 70 percent of his throws.
Wilson still holds the ball too long and doesn't always see things develop as quickly as you’d like, though. He must also connect on more passes downfield to open things up for the offense. And he’s got to be better in the red zone, where the Jets rank 31st in the League, and on third down, where they are last in the NFL.
Zach Wilson decision-making grade: B
Wilson is taking much better care of the football in his third NFL season. He’s thrown five picks in six games. But that includes three in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 when he was trying to hit on big plays to rally the Jets.
He’s thrown one pick in the past four games. And there are far fewer cringe-worthy decisions that don’t necessarily end up in turnovers.
Zach Wilson overall grade: C
Wilson is not losing games for the Jets like he did last season. Certainly, he's an improved game manager, but Wilson must start being a difference maker. Once he starts doing that, Wilson will become more than an adequate NFL quarterback.
His two fourth-quarter comebacks this season match the two he had his first two seasons combined. Plus, he simply looks more confident and resilient. But there’s plenty of work to be done.
The Jets have things to fix during their bye. Fortunately, major surgery is not needed at the quarterback position, as initially feared.