New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is beyond fouled up right now
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
I mean, why not?
This fresh-faced NFL that allows offensive players the run of the place allows versatile quarterbacks to pull off nutty plays that Fran Tarkenton—the league’s first dual-threat stud quarterback—could only dream of several decades ago.
Executing the near-impossible is why talent evaluators seek the dual-threat signal-callers that can release it quickly and hit every spot on the field. It’s what often separates the good quarterback from the great one—or, at the very least, the kid who comes to the party equipped with the potential to hit a status the kids call “bonkers.”
Wilson certainly arrives at the party with that exact potential. Unfortunately, bonkers can only commence if the mundane is first flawless.
“You always go back to your fundamentals,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said after his team’s disappointing 27-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in London on Sunday. “You have the screen play also—that was pretty open. But you know, he’s working on it daily, I promise you, and he’s going to get better at it and he’s very deliberate about it.”
Wilson, 22, reverted back to his “overthinking” status that he often showcased in Week 2 and 3. Although he was still somewhat stuck in that mode last week against Tennessee, the second half’s free-flow style allowed him to break away from the struggles.
Against Atlanta, the kid couldn’t even pull off the simplest of quarterback tasks.
Zach Wilson is in his own head, which has fouled up the mechanics
One of the game’s common themes revolved around accomplishing the routine. No matter the simplicity of the task, whether or not Wilson delivers is a wild-card.
Down 17-0, the Jets offense had something rolling late in the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur dialed up a play-action bubble screen that could have gone for a score.
Wilson is so fouled up right now that the simple post-snap designs are tough to execute.
The OC is always public enemy No. 1 when things aren't going well, i.e. Hackett, Schotty, Coslet, etc. While LaFleur hasn't been perfect, strategy matters little when the QB is just lost.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) October 10, 2021
Quite literally, there isn’t a better spot for the bubble. Not only did LaFleur catch Atlanta in a blitz, but he also forced the two second-level backers to flow to the boundary side (offense’s left) and the play-side edge to get sucked in.
This meant the three Jets wideouts were left on an island against three Falcons defensive backs—one of which had to travel a far way from his single-high safety spot.
Two solid stalk blocks create a one-on-one situation for Jamison Crowder. Just one missed tackle is all that separates the Jets’ slot weapon from six points.
Why Wilson could not make this throw is part mechanical, part mental.
Sure, his mechanics are awful. But the mental aspect of the equation is leading to immense mechanical flaws.
His left leg isn’t in the greatest spot, yet that’s hardly the issue on this play.
Notice how the BYU product is throwing “out in front.” He’s throwing with all of his weight on his front shoulder and leg (left). This is happening because he’s not driving with his back/plant foot.
Watch his right foot as he releases the ball:
There’s just no drive. Wilson’s upper body and lower body aren’t connected, thus little fluidity exists. It’s as if he’s tossing the ball around in his backyard among friends.
While the skeptic would say, “Hey, this is just one play; what about the entire game?”, Wilson’s poor mechanics have been a constant all year long.
A quick look at the Wilson-to-Corey Davis bomb against Tennessee showcases the same “non-drive” action with his drive foot:
Even here, Wilson doesn’t really drive. He uses a lot of his upper body to generate power, and that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t put too much strain on the elbow. And it’s also fine if the accuracy is there.
It becomes a problem if the casual nature of the mechanics doesn’t get in the way of the routine stuff quarterbacks must execute in the hard-design, three-step passing concepts.
What the OC does means little unless the routine is executed
It’s a tradition like no other: When in doubt, blame the offensive play-caller.
Jets fandom understands many traditions. One long-lasting certainty is that the offensive play-caller is always public enemy No. 1. Whether it was Brian Schottenheimer, Paul Hackett, Bruce Coslet or even Adam Gase, the Madden video game era has brought on this feel—as if the perfect play-call could turn everything around.
Real life does not work that way.
Involved are actual human emotions—something that always needs to be taken into account. And until Wilson begins to execute the routine throws that shouldn’t turn up so inaccurately, there isn’t ‘much Mike LaFleur can do.
Strangely enough, Jets Twitter called for 10 personnel in a big way Sunday. This became a topic for obvious reasons: The Jets’ tight ends leave a lot to be desired, whereas their wide receivers are a strength. (Plus, getting Denzel Mims on the field is a big deal in the often confusing land of Jets Twitter.)
But when the quarterback’s usually solid short-to-intermediate-range placement is nonexistent, what’s the difference? What would 10 personnel do as opposed to 21 or 11?
In fact, trotting out 10 personnel would force Wilson to have to think that much more. LaFleur would not have the ability to utilize play-action as much, the more simplistic two or three-man routes become null, and rolling through progressions becomes that much more critical.
LaFleur and the Jets are working their way through the “crawling” stage at the moment—something that needs to be accomplished before the rookie quarterback can start walking.
Back to the drawing board during the bye week
Luckily, New York now enters its bye week at the right time. A tough task lies ahead for Saleh and the staff. They must figure out a way to get their quarterback back to square one—the place where his off-schedule stuff is just the icing on the cake that is a fundamentally sound base.
Only then can the kid begin to start reacting again—rather than overthinking and running through time at a higher-than-normal speed of rate.
“It’s (about) trusting it when bullets are flying,” Saleh said. “It’s very easy to stand at the driving range and hit 300-yard drives. It’s, ‘Can you do it when you’re on the tee box and there’s water to your left and sand to your right?’ And that’s just something that he’s got to work on. That’s something the coaches have to work on and everybody has to work on.”
By all accounts, the BYU product is an incredibly coachable kid. This new Jets regime has referenced his “mental horsepower” a couple of times since they snagged him in the two-spot of the 2021 NFL draft.
Perhaps that mental horsepower is working in a counterproductive fashion right now. Or, maybe it’s just the thing that’ll lead to the turnaround that kickstarts the kid’s eventual excellent NFL career.
“When he hits it, it’s going to be pretty cool when it does,” Saleh added. “But, obviously, it comes back to eye placement, progression, footwork, everything we’ve been talking about over the last couple of weeks.”
The good news is this: Zach Wilson isn’t this inaccurate of a quarterback. He can snap out of it and turn this ship around.
The bad news, however, paints a gloomy picture. It’s troubling that he allowed the in-between-the-ears part of the position to turn his usually solid accuracy into mush.
In spite of the actual ills that are currently plaguing Zach Wilson, he’s as fouled up as he could possibly be.
It’s time to get back to basics.