Zach Wilson may have donned his New York Jets gear for the first time, but he’s already building chemistry and familiarity under center.
These exceptions are certainly the only instance the Jets hope the numeral is attached to Wilson, their presumed No. 1, as they enter a new era of football.
But, Wilson isn’t ready to officially accept that role just yet. Despite a lack of experienced competition beyond rookie camp—James Morgan and Mike White have zero regular-season passes among them—Wilson wants to earn that position rather than accept an anointing right from the get-go.
“The coaches want to play the best player, and that position is going to be earned,” Wilson said of the starting quarterback job on a rainy Saturday in Florham Park. “I got to go in there and I got to make sure I do what I’m supposed to do. “That’ll take care of itself.”
Through this minicamp, Wilson dons his Jets gear on a weekend for the first of what both he and the team hope are many, many weekends. The BYU alum is taking full advantage of the early opportunity to build chemistry and a rapport with some of his new teammates, as well as to familiarize himself with the differences the NFL offers from the college game.
“It’s fun to get back to playing ball and meet some of the guys,” Wilson said through audio obtained by Jet X. “I’m learning all the new plays, getting used to throwing to different guys. The speed of the game is a little bit different. Of course, the field is different as far as the hashes numbers go. So it was good just to get back after it.”
This weekend marked the first time Wilson has donned a helmet since the Boca Raton Bowl in December. Wilson’s collegiate finale was perhaps the definition of going out on a high note, throwing for a career-best 425 yards in the Cougars’ dominant victory over Central Florida. It capped off a monumental season for BYU, as the program won 11 games for the first time since 2009 and their 11th-place ranking in the final Associated Press poll was their highest since 1996.
Just over four months later, Wilson is now part of a New York draft class expected to end even more dubious gridiron streaks of futility. The Jets’ playoff drought reached a decade after their disastrous two-win campaign last season, a year dominated by offensive ineptitude. New York management has countered the problem by affording Wilson the talents of other early picks like USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore, and North Carolina rusher Michael Carter.
Thus far, Wilson’s pleased with what he’s been able to build with his fellow first years on the misty fields of Florham Park this weekend.
“I just feel like that connection with your guys is super important,” Wilson said on the importance of the weekend, particularly working with “both Alijahs/Elijahs.” Even if he might need some assistance on the spelling, Wilson was pleased with the progress he was able to make with each of them.
“It’s a lot of new faces in the building. I think (this weekend is about) where that connection starts as far as just making sure we get on the same page. We become friends, we start to get to know each other. It starts all there.”
In terms of the new skill talent afforded to him, Wilson described Moore as “pretty good at everything” and is also looking forward to working with Carter, the Jets’ fourth and final offensive pick of the draft. The quarterback’s biggest complaint about Carter is that his name matches that of defender and fellow Saturday selection Michael Carter II…a clear indicator as to how things are going.
“I think the exciting part is that he’s got some good hands he can catch the ball in the backfield,” Wilson said of the rushing Carter. “I think having that dual-threat kind of running back is going to be important someone that can hit the hole hard, run some guys over balls to make some guys miss on the perimeter. So I think it’s gonna be exciting to have him in the backfield.”
With Wilson has come a humble sense of know what’s ahead. He still has many faces to meet, hands to shake, plays to learn. But his buying into the new New York approach has been well documented through his statements and even some subtle phenomena on the practice field. Photos emerging from Florham Park depict Wilson wearing a wristband that reads “All Gas, No Brake,” referencing the mantra head coach Robert Saleh has echoed since taking the job last winter.
Post-rookie camp, Wilson has been filing his time by watching film featuring his veteran weaponry, including Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, Corey Davis, and Denzel Mims.
“I’ve been making my way around, and I’m going to keep learning more about all the other guys just, kind of fill out what makes them what, what makes them unique,” Wilson said. “It’s been exciting to just get to know all of these guys by name and start to find those similarities we have.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags