Zach Wilson and Corey Davis are fully embracing their roles as New York Jets captains
It’s been a long time, particularly in football years, that the New York Jets have had a long-term, consistent hope in making big plays offensively. Since they finally appeared to be blessed with such a tandem of hope, they knew exactly how to commemorate the honor.
The Jets announced on Wednesday that quarterback Zach Wilson and receiver Corey Davis will serve as the team’s 2021 offensive captains. Each will make their metropolitan regular season debut on Sunday afternoon as the Jets travel to Charlotte to battle the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Both Davis and Wilson spoke about the honor during their public comments on Wednesday. Davis was particularly enthused that the title was earned not through a coach’s nomination but rather a player vote.
“It’s amazing, it’s a great feeling, just coming here for the first year, having these players vote me in as the captain,” Davis said. “It speaks volumes. They have a lot of trust in me, a lot of confidence in me. It feels good, I’m ready for it.”
“Your teammates are the ones that you’re out there with, going to war with every day,” Davis continued. “They saw something in me that they the felt deserved to be captain. It’s definitely something I’m ready for. I’m not a very vocal guy, but I’m going to lead these boys as best I can.”
As a playoff staple, appearing in three of the last four AFC postseason tournaments as a member of the Tennessee Titans, Davis’ playoff experience made him an ideal bastion of leadership for a team that’s nursing the longest playoff drought in the NFL.
Earning the captaincy honor probably wasn’t at the top of Davis’ metropolitan checklist. But since he was called upon to take a larger role in an offensive evolution – going into Week 1, he’s the undisputed top receiver in New York – Davis was pleased to see that his development as a leader could take on an undeniable form, one that shows how much trust his peers have in him.
“I wanted to evolve as a person and as a player as well,” Davis said. “Being a leader is part of that. We have a young team, a young wideout core, and a lot of these guys lean on me, and that’s something that I want. I want that pressure.”
While the seasoned Davis was an apparent choice to wear the Jets’ offensive C, the other has caused a bit of a stir. Some observers are amused by the fact that the quarterback Wilson, the Jets’ top pick from April’s draft proceedings, earned the honor right from the get-go, especially with one of the team’s captains from the prior season (tackle George Fant) back for another year.
It was no surprise, however, to Wilson or his green compatriots. Head coach Robert Saleh, for example, expressed mild astonishment at best.
“When I did see it, I was like, ‘Oh, look at that,’” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “I think it’s more of a testament to him and the way he’s been able to conduct himself here…you go to the cafeteria and he’s hanging out with his O-linemen. He’s got an infectious personality, so credit to him the way he’s handled himself so far.”
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Wilson concurred, noting he was “not necessarily” surprised that his teammates labeled him an offensive leader.
“As a quarterback, I think that leadership role, obviously, should just be in place no matter what,” Wilson said. “That you kind of need to lead by example and, we’re kind of that position that touches a little bit of everything as far as rules and everything goes so, that’s why a lot of people look to the quarterback and so, regardless, that’s kind of how it should be.”
The naming of Wilson as Jets captain more or less burns a popular red flag cited amongst Wilson’s critics: that he did not wear a C during his time at Brigham Young University. Wilson was quick to brush off those concerns: he views the honor from the Jets as not some form of vindication, but rather a different situation entirely.
In other words, he’s leaving the slight in Provo in the past.
“It’s two different situations and I think, when I was at BYU and didn’t come off of a great sophomore year, injury or whatever and, you’re not named the starter yet at BYU,” he remarked. “If I’m not the starting quarterback, why am I going to be a captain, if I’m going to be a backup. So, when the team doesn’t know who the starter is yet, how do you vote him as a captain?”
“In this situation, where I’ve been able to be that guy and people are able to come and ask questions and all that kind of thing, it helps in that regard.”
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In an NFL landscape that has come to value a big-play mindset that borders on worship, the Jets have been woefully behind the times: they haven’t had a receiver reach 1,000 yards since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker each did so in 2015. Last season’s slate saw them eclipse 300 yards of offense in only five games.
Davis and Wilson fostered a strong connection this summer, uniting for 88 yards on six receptions over two preseason contests. Their connection was on full display on Wednesday as each endorsed the other for the captaincy during their public statements.
“I wasn’t very surprised, to be honest,” Davis said of Wilson’s election. “He’s a young dude, but he’s ready to lead. The team wouldn’t have voted him to be a captain if he wasn’t ready. And, you know, if he didn’t show us something that showed he would be a good leader. He’s been doing that all camp, just extra work, doing a lot of things that people don’t see. So I think he’s ready for it.”
“I thought Corey was a perfect pick to be a captain,” Wilson added. “He’s not a vocal leader and I don’t think you need him to be, at all. I think you see his leadership day in and day out and just the way that he approaches the game and the way that he just does everything right … He never complains about anything, you’re never calling on him in meetings for not giving enough effort on a play or something like that. Guys see that and everyone is just like, “Geez, look at Corey,” this guy’s always doing the right thing.”
In addition to Davis and Wilson, the Jets unveiled three further captains on the other sides of the ball. C.J. Mosley and Foley Fatukasi will represent the defense, while Justin Hardee was named the special teams leader.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags