Zach Wilson blends rare talent with a fearless mindset
Let me take you back. It’s Sept. 7, 2019, in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Over 92,000 people gather into a deafening Neyland Stadium to watch the BYU Cougars take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The visiting BYU team is lead by their young sophomore quarterback, Zach Wilson.
Did this team from Provo, Utah really stand a chance on the road in this environment against an SEC opponent? And who is Zach Wilson? How would he rebound after a home loss to the Utes where he threw no touchdowns and two interceptions, including a brutal pick-six?
Picture this: The Cougars have the ball down 16-13 with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter, facing first-and-18 at their own 8-yard line.
Wilson makes a quick decision for a gain of 12 yards out to the 20-yard line. Next play? The BYU quarterback throws a deep strike to his receiver on third-and-6 for a gain of 64 yards down to the Tennessee 16-yard line. A BYU game-tying field goal follows with one second left on the game clock.
Fearless. Crowd silenced. Overtime.
After throwing a touchdown pass in the first round of overtime, Wilson and BYU rallied to defeat the Volunteers in front of their own packed crowd.
Despite leading this resilient win and others, there were still plenty of questions during the NFL draft process surrounding Wilson’s ability to respond to pressure and adversity.
It seems there may have been at least a few answers right there in front of us.
A thrilling overtime win against a Tennessee opponent sure sounds familiar
The New York Jets were 0-3 heading into their Week 4 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. The offense was averaging 6.7 points per game. Their young rookie quarterback had thrown two touchdowns compared to seven interceptions.
Every Jets fan is demanding immediate progress. If you opened social media, there was a surefire chance you’d find some kind of joke about just how bad the Jets were playing.
Another performance similar to the first three would be completely unacceptable in the eyes of many Jets fans.
No pressure, Zach.
Wilson started off the game with his fair share of struggles. A three-and-out on the first drive and an early interception followed by a near turnover had the MetLife crowd letting their feelings be heard.
However, similar to 2019 in Neyland Stadium, Wilson would eventually hit a rhythm and become comfortable in the face of adversity.
On a third-and-6 play, Wilson scrambled and completed an improbable pass for a 54-yard gain to Keelan Cole. The Jets’ offense took off from that moment.
At this point, you know the rest. Wilson would throw for 297 yards and two scores as the Jets overcame the odds to defeat the Tennessee Titans in overtime for their first win of the season.
Despite the struggles from Weeks 1-3 and the struggles early on in this matchup, Zach never kept his head down. He continued to be himself, continuously putting mistakes behind him and resiliently moving on to the next play.
Wilson has to clean up minor details, but the Titans game showed off his rare skillset
I dissected 21 passing plays from Wilson’s Week 4 performance, which gives us a sneak peek as to what the future can look like with him in New York.
The breakdown will touch on Wilson’s highlights but also areas where I believe Zach needs to improve. One big topic of discussion has been his inability to be consistent on the short, quick throws. I break down exactly where I think the issue stems from.
There will be plays in which I’m hard on Wilson, but it’s only because he’s a special player and I’m confident he will grow to a point where he makes the routine plays on a more consistent basis.
Let’s dive in.
Note: the video quality stabilizes after the first play (10:09 mark).
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