NFL News & Analysis

The New York Jets have a Zach Wilson problem

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) passes the ball against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Wilson was given the press conference equivalent of a lay-up. A chance to take ownership of one of the worst performances we’ve seen at the quarterback position all season. His response ironically turned out to be as accurate as his two airmailed throws to the flat in the New York Jets‘ 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 11:

The Jets' offense had just produced the fourth-lowest expected points added per play of any team in any game this season. Of course, the offense was the problem. The second-year quarterback refusing to acknowledge his role in a crucial divisional loss that could have serious playoff implications is just as concerning as the actual on-field performance. Because for a player who desperately needs to develop, his inability to recognize that explains a lot of why we’ve seen nothing in the way of year-on-year improvement from the former No. 2 overall pick.

There are two glaring issues that Wilson continues to struggle with: reading coverages and showing poise under pressure. They go hand in hand, to a degree. If you don’t know where to attack a given defense, it only makes life harder when pressure comes. The pressure issues have been evident since his rookie season. On 258 career pressured dropbacks, Wilson has just 37 positively graded plays. That was to be somewhat expected, considering he played behind the highest-graded pass-protecting offensive line in college football during his final season at BYU. 

The problem is that even when left completely clean, Wilson still doesn’t know where to go with the football. You see that in his complete inability to lead a consistent offense outside of quick game, where reads are often determined by coverage numbers pre-snap.

Stat Under 2 Seconds 2+ Seconds
PFF Passing Grade 78.5 33.6
Attempts 53 61
Completions 43 135
Completion % 81.1% 45.2%
Yards 354 924
YPA 6.7 6.8
Big-Time Throws 0 3
Turnover-Worthy Plays 0 13

That passing grade on throws longer than 2.0 seconds is far and away the lowest in the NFL. The lowest of any other full-time starter in the league is Kyler Murray at 54.5. This is also nothing new for Wilson, who recorded a 51.2 passing grade on such throws as a rookie in 2021. 

That all speaks to the larger problem here, one exemplified by Wilson’s press conference. There are precisely zero signs of improvement. The fact that he’s finding fewer options now in Year 2 of the offense with even more weapons at his disposal is about as damning a development as you’ll see from a young quarterback. And it’s not like he’s without options in Mike LaFleur’s offense:

So now the question becomes: What’s next? Wilson still has a golden arm, but as a quarterback, he’s unplayable at the moment. This roster is too good to be ruined by the inability to find a signal-caller. If Wilson doesn’t show any signs of life down the stretch, expect the Jets to be major players in the quarterback trade market this offseason. 

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