It’s been a troublesome start to the New York Jets season. Zach Wilson’s Week 3 only added to those concerns, after New York went a second consecutive game without scoring a touchdown. The production isn’t there, the points aren’t there, and the wins seem even further behind. We’re witnessing the beginning of the long road that is Wilson’s development. That doesn’t mean there weren’t significant takeaways to be had.
What Wilson Did Well
Showed Off His Upside
The best play of Wilson’s day didn’t move the chains. It didn’t score points and it certainly didn’t give New York a lead. We can point to Corey Davis and blame his toughness at the catch point or give props to the defensive back for knocking the ball out. Either way, it was a gentle reminder that Wilson is still stupendously talented.
This play was, in many ways, a showcase of what Wilson does well. He evaded pressure well while keeping his eyes downfield. Once he found his way out of a muddied pocket, he had the athleticism to create space from pursuing defenders. From there, he showed off the arm talent and delivered a 40-yard strike while still drifting.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Wilson can keep an offense afloat even when things go south. Once again, he showed how that’s possible, even if the Jets couldn’t cash in on it. Eventually, those plays are going to result in six.
It’s been a long three weeks for Wilson, in part due to the lack of support around him. He’s been under pressure frequently, at times, by his own fault. Nonetheless, it was inspiring to see Wilson retain his arm talent and make plays with guys in his face.
With a linebacker in his face, Wilson shows off proper timing, accuracy, and a quick release. He hits a wide open Jeff Smith for one of the longest gains of the day.
Wilson’s issues with pressure won’t fix themselves in a week. Still, it is encouraging to see him unfazed here. This situation doesn’t call for it, but stepping through throws in the face of pressure are likely the next steps in his development.
A Referendum on Wilson’s Floor
I’ve talked a lot about Wilson’s struggles in structure as a rookie. They’re still plentiful, but the warts show themselves in more difficult scenarios.
Here, things get simple. It looks like Cover 2 to the left pre-snap. He gets Cover 2, and the concept beats it easily. Drop, hitch, throw. When the picture is clear, Wilson can operate quickly and accurately.
Ultimately, plays like this are a referendum on Wilson’s floor. Despite how ugly things get at times, nothing is lost in translation when the pre-snap picture doesn’t change. It isn’t much, but it’s a higher floor than his lowest points would suggest. If anything, let is say that New York chose the right guy, it’s just a matter of development.
Where Wilson Struggled
Indicator Tunnel Vision
Wilson’s Week 3 added two interceptions to the ledger, but only one was truly his fault. Unfortunately, this one was ugly.
Here, we see a flood concept. It’s similar to the concept Wilson was picked off on against New England, where Devin McCourty looked like he was fielding a punt. However, I think the process that led to this interception is similar to Wilson’s first career interception in Week 1.
Denver’s running a quarters-like coverage to the concept. Jeff Smith is taken vertically by the boundary corner. The “apex” or slot corner, in this case, plays man defense on Braxton Berrios. From there, it seems that Davis is going to have a favorable matchup against the inside linebacker. Unfortunately for Wilson, the linebacker is just walling Davis from crossing the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Justin Simmons is in a robber assignment, rather than a deep zone.
Wilson sees that the defender covering Davis has inside leverage. Given that Davis is running an out route, it seems like an easy decision. Unfortunately, Wilson takes that as an indicator to throw at Davis’ break. He failed to account for Simmons, who explodes to the ball and picks him off. At this point in time, it seems Wilson is developing tunnel vision on particular indicators in an effort to comfortably get through his progressions. As a result, he loses other zone defenders and makes some brutal decisions.
Overcoming this bad habit will be a key part in developing his play within structure.
Coming out of BYU, Wilson was touted for his ability to make plays out of structure with unorthodox arm angles and a lack of a platform. So far, he’s struggled to do that consistently.
Wilson if moved off his base and forced to deliver this pass to Ty Johnson with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage. He drops his arm and releases it in an atypical sidearm fashion. Circumstances are far from ideal, but Wilson is expected to hit throws like this. For someone that did this consistently at BYU, it can be frustrating to see those passes hit at a significantly lower rate.
Moreover, this inconsistency is troubling because we’ve seen him make similar, better throws before. Wilson has more than enough talent to hit said throws, but he’s yet to retain the necessary accuracy.
Wilson has showed time and time again to be instinctive and twitchy within the pocket. At the same time, he’s justified comments scolding him for holding onto the ball for too long.
Here, Moses gets beat badly by Von Miller. Ty Johnson’s incompetence and Miller’s alignment don’t help, but the result is the same. He quickly barrels down on Wilson and gets a free shot on the rookie.
As a general rule, good quarterbacks can evade a single pass rusher. Of course, the individual rusher here and how quickly he wins makes that more difficult. Still, opportunities are there for Wilson to escape. There are lanes to step up and potentially out of the pocket. Instead, Wilson doesn’t feel Miller honing in and pays for it. Moving forward, being able to sense pressure while keeping his eyes down field will play a role in extending plays and keeping the football safe.
Getting the Ball Out
The final play of Wilson’s week in review relates strongly to the previous one. Wilson needs to protect himself, and the offense, by getting the ball out quicker.
Simply put, the check down is open. He’s under duress and knows the downfield options aren’t viable. Instead of checking it down and living to see another day, Wilson makes an additional pocket movement and is eventually taken down for a loss.
Part of what makes Wilson so dangerous is his ability to hit home runs out of broken plays. Still, there’s a time and place for everything. Here, he’s better off gaining a handful of yards. His choice puts more stress on his offensive line and leaves yards on the field.
All in all, Wilson looked like a rookie who just played the most daunting coach the sport has ever seen. Against a comparable defense, he struggled again. Wilson’s struggles now are all opportunities to grow.
He’ll have a chance to show that growth Week 4 against a lesser Tennessee defense.