Zach Wilson has been medically cleared by doctors and will be the New York Jets' starting quarterback when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks during practice this week.
“It’s really just exciting for him to get back on the football field,” coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday. “It’s been six weeks … It’s exciting to get him back out there.”
Coach Saleh on the return of QB Zach Wilson to the lineup. pic.twitter.com/t650s5CywV
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 28, 2022
Zach Wilson had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 16 after sustaining a non-contact injury in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned to practice two weeks ago but was limited and did not take part in 11-on-11 drills. Saleh had said the “earliest” Wilson would return was Week 4.
Saleh said Wednesday that Wilson’s knee is “100 percent.”
Robert Saleh says that Zach Wilson's knee is 100%: pic.twitter.com/1fu08pdVuo
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) September 28, 2022
Wilson played only two series during the preseason before he was injured on a scramble. His first series ended in an interception. Before that, the 23-year-old showed improvement in his command of the offense and decision-making during OTAs and the start of training camp.
As a rookie last season, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft struggled. Zach Wilson was 3-10 as a starter, missing four games with a knee sprain. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes, threw nine touchdown passes and was intercepted 11 times.
Flacco started the first three games this season with mixed results. The 37-year-old was booed during losses in Weeks 1 and 3 at home to the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. He was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week runner-up in Week 2 after leading the 19th fourth-quarter comeback of his career in a 31-30 win against the Cleveland Browns.
Joe Flacco in Week 3, via PFF:
– 6 turnover worthy plays, the most any QB has had in a game this season
– 27.1 overall grade, the worst any starting QB has had this season#Jets
— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) September 26, 2022
All told, Flacco threw five touchdown passes and was intercepted three times, twice against the Bengals, in leading the Jets to a 1-2 record. He completed 58.7 percent of his passes and was sacked nine times. Flacco also leads the NFL with 155 pass attempts this season.
Wilson will return behind a shaky offensive line, particularly at left tackle. Mekhi Becton is out for the season after knee surgery. Duane Brown is on IR for at least another week because of a shoulder injury after he was signed to help replace Becton. Most recently, George Fant was placed on IR with a knee injury Tuesday.
Connor McDermott is expected to start at left tackle this week. The veteran backup had a miserable 20.6 pass blocking grade per Pro Football Focus after replacing Fant against the Bengals. Rookie fourth-round pick Max Mitchell has played all three games at right tackle and has improved steadily. He had a respectable 65.1 pass blocking grade per PFF last week.
Protecting Zach Wilson is paramount for the Jets. It’s fair to question their ability to adequately do so right now.