Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Stats, 2021
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Checking in on our goals for Zach Wilson

Prior to Zach Wilson‘s return game against the Houston Texans, I laid out three specific goals I wanted to see him accomplish over his final seven starts of the 2021 season:

  • Improve his short and intermediate accuracy
  • Quicken his release time
  • Decrease his sack rate

Let’s check up on how he did in each of these areas in his first game back as the New York Jets starting quarterback.

Short/intermediate accuracy

Unfortunately, Wilson did not show any progress in the accuracy department.

Wilson completed only six of his 12 “short” attempts (0 to 9 yards downfield) with zero drops or any other disruptions, giving him an adjusted completion percentage of 50.0% in the short range.

Frankly, that is downright atrocious. It is well below the mark of 78.0% that Wilson had going into Week 12, which in itself ranked second-worst out of 37 qualified quarterbacks.

This season, Justin Fields is the NFL’s least accurate quarterback in the short range with an adjusted completion percentage of 72.3%. The median mark out of 37 qualifiers is Lamar Jackson’s 83.4%, while the league leader is Ryan Tannehill at 88.1%.

Throwing accurately on half of your passes in the short range is unacceptable.

Even if Wilson was accurate on three more of his 12 short passes, his overall accuracy in that range still would have been poor (reaching 75.0%).

Short accuracy is the number one issue that Wilson needs to clean up.

Wilson did not try enough throws in the intermediate range (10 to 19 yards downfield) to be judged for his performance there. He was accurate on two of his three intermediate passes (66.7%), which is good, but again, it’s only three passes.

For reference, Wilson ranks 34th out of 37 qualifiers with an adjusted completion percentage of 56.1% on intermediate passes. The lowest mark is 51.6% (Sam Darnold), the median is 61.3% (Carson Wentz), and the leader is Joe Burrow (80.4%).

Wilson getting to at least the 60% mark on a consistent basis needs to be the goal.

Sacks

Wilson took four sacks against 24 pass attempts for a sack rate of 14.3%, which is incredibly high. It is more than double the 2021 league average of 6.0% and well ahead of the already-poor rate that he had over his first six games (9.5%).

However, a few of the sacks that Wilson took were unavoidable as he took instant pressure, so he does not deserve much criticism for this facet of the game just yet.

With that being said, this is something that cannot persist. Wilson’s sack rate on the season has ballooned to 10.1%. It is extremely difficult to move the ball when your quarterback is sacked once every 10 dropbacks. Not to mention, it puts the banged-up Wilson in harm’s way.

Everyone has to be better to get that number down. That includes Wilson, the offensive line, the skill position blockers, and the coaching staff.

Regarding Wilson’s role in the sack numbers, it is fair to wonder how well he is doing at setting protections and understanding them. It seems that the number of miscommunications, botched assignments, and free rushers all increase when Wilson is on the field compared to his three elder peers. That cannot be merely a coincidence.

From our perspective as outside observers, it is pure speculation to try and debate who is at fault for these things without actually being on the team and knowing the assignments for each play.

The only fact in this matter is that Wilson’s sack rate has to go down if he is going to be a successful quarterback. Since quarterbacks are largely responsible for their own sack rates, it falls on Wilson to improve this facet of his game in the long run (even if the Houston game wasn’t necessarily the best example of Wilson’s propensity for taking sacks).

Release time

This is the one area of Wilson’s game where we saw some noticeable progress during his performance against Houston.

Wilson held the ball for an average of 3.10 seconds over his first six games, which trailed only Jalen Hurts among qualifiers entering Week 12.

Against the Texans, Wilson got that number down to 2.68, a season-low for him. That is a middle-of-the-pack release speed – for reference, it would currently rank 15th out of 32 qualifiers on the season.

Wilson did a visibly better job of getting the ball out quickly and finding his safe options underneath. He obviously has to be more effective at actually completing those throws, but it was promising to see Wilson speed up his processing and refrain from hanging on to the ball too long.

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Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania@jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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