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Zach Wilson made enormous progress vs. Eagles in 3 key areas

Zach Wilson, NY Jets, Eagles, Stats, Film, Highlights
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Zach Wilson continues trending upward with solid outing vs. Eagles

Despite lackluster box-score stats, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson took steps forward in important areas during his return start against the Houston Texans, putting together an underrated outing that featured tangible progress.

Wilson continued his upward trajectory with another promising start against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The rookie quarterback continues to show sizable improvement in areas that were his primary weaknesses prior to his four-game absence.

1. Overall accuracy

Wilson’s accuracy was far from perfect against Philly, as even some of his completions were imperfect balls that required a strong effort from the receiver. There is still a long way for him to go in this area.

Regardless, Wilson made some strides. He had his sharpest day yet from an overall accuracy standpoint.

Wilson officially completed 23 of his 38 pass attempts (60.5%), but five of his incompletions were charted as drops while two were throwaways. Taking those things into account, his adjusted completion percentage was a sterling 77.8%, which is a new career high. His previous best was 73.5%, set in his NFL debut against the Carolina Panthers.

Particularly, Wilson did a much better job at the easy stuff, which has been his weakness this year.

Wilson posted an adjusted completion percentage of 84.6% on short throws (0-9 yards downfield), ranking as his second-best mark of the year following his 87.5% mark against Carolina. That is a solid number for Wilson to shoot for going forward. It is slightly above the current league median out of 34 qualifiers (82.8%) and would sandwich between the current 12th and 13th-ranked short passers.

Wilson’s 75.0% adjusted completion percentage on intermediate throws (10-19 yards downfield) sets a new career high, beating out his 71.4% against Carolina. He went 7-for-12 with two drops. That is a tremendous output. The current median mark among qualifiers is 61.7%, and a 75.0% mark would slide between second-ranked Kirk Cousins and third-ranked Kyler Murray.

To boot, Wilson completed all six of his passes behind the line of scrimmage. That minuscule accomplishment won’t get him a statue built anytime soon, but it’s a step forward considering he threw four inaccuracy-based incompletions behind the line of scrimmage over his first seven starts. Perfection is the goal on passes behind the line.

It may be difficult for Wilson to drastically improve his accuracy in-season – perhaps the leap will not occur until he gets an entire offseason to refine his mechanics and hammer them down over months of practice – but it’s great to see him figuring out ways to stabilize things for the time being.

2. Time holding the football

Wilson is clearly putting an emphasis on applying the lessons that he learned from watching the offense succeed during his four-game absence. He is making quicker decisions, seeing things better pre-snap, and taking more checkdowns when they are the best option available.

Exemplifying all of these improvements is the average amount of time that Wilson is holding the ball.

Wilson held the ball for an average of 2.66 seconds against Philadelphia, a new career low.

His previous career low? That would be the nearly identical 2.68-second mark that he posted against Houston the previous week.

These last two starts have been a massive step forward for Wilson when it comes to getting the football out on time. Through Week 7, Wilson was holding the ball for a whopping 3.10 seconds, ranking second-highest among all quarterbacks behind only Lamar Jackson.

That was much too long for Wilson considering where he is currently at as a quarterback. The high-2.6 range is a great place for Wilson to be. It’s a perfectly middle-of-the-pack number – right now, 2.68 seconds is dead-even with the league median out of 32 qualifiers.

We do not want Wilson to hold the ball too long, as that likely means he is passing up on easy throws and creating sack opportunities that do not need to happen. But we also do not want his release time to be too low. That would mean his deep passing and off-schedule abilities are not being unleashed.

By settling into a middle ground, Wilson is striking a healthy balance of aggression and caution. He is improvising and taking shots when the time is right, but he is primarily focusing on working within the offense.

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3. Keeping the offense moving

There were no game-breaking plays from the Jets’ offense in this game, but the unit moved the ball efficiently on most of its drives. It was the most fluid and consistent that the offense ever looked under Wilson’s leadership, and that is exemplified by his career-best total of conversions thrown.

Wilson tossed two touchdowns and 13 first downs against Philadelphia. His total of 15 conversions is a new career high, significantly beating out his previous best of 11 against Tennessee.

Wilson averaged only 8.8 conversions per game over his first six fully-played starts. To toss 15 in one contest is a huge step forward for him.

This stat is why Robert Saleh called this game “by far (Wilson’s) best game in terms of just working progression and playing within the scheme.” Sure, he hit a handful of explosive plays against Tennessee, but he was not as solid when it came to commanding the offense and moving the chains. The Eagles game was Wilson’s first performance in which he showed he could consistently move the ball.

Jets fans should be ecstatic with the steps that Wilson is taking.

It’s not as if Wilson is just making some flashy plays with his raw talent while crucial issues persist. Rather, he is improving in the fundamental areas where proficiency is absolutely necessary for a quarterback to achieve sustained long-term success. Even more impressively, it appears he has placed a concerted focus on fixing those weaknesses, showcasing the self-evaluation ability that is integral to long-term development.

Wilson is slowly mastering the “boring” aspects of quarterbacking. Once he completes this mission, then his physical gifts can put him over the top.

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Matt Galemmo
2 years ago

I loved the throw to a gimpy Davis that went through his hands. Do you have any thoughts on that one? I think the announcers weren’t all that impressed…but I bet you’re going to tell me how they should’ve been.

Richard Hausig
2 years ago

You guys do good work! I dont have the same film but noticed a couple of things in the process as well. The game plan was designed to use running plays that minimize the QB footwork and I thought that helped keep those plays on time. During the game I thought he looked clunky, because he is clunky, but generally speaking his feet were better, especially in the set up and shoulder point. On the 3rd TD he regressed, the miss to Moore was late and he flicked it, bad throw. He also made the TD catch way too hard but he did much better in the pocket mechanically and it showed.

One other thing, on the coaches. Its not fair to the rookie when you dont establish the run in this offense. I know the game has changed etc but you have to find a way to get the run game going in order to take the pressure off the QB. Youre 2-8, I know you want to win every game but this is a strategic necessity. Part of the problem is the D cant get the ball back so the O doesnt run enough plays to get into a rhythm. But trying to improve the QB with a bad squad makes it harder if you dont run the ball. You can be vanilla if you execute and at this point games are practice reps for this team, use the reps to get better and to develop the QB and an identity.

verge tibbs
2 years ago

I was pretty anxiety-ed up all week about this short accuracy possibly becoming a gigantic issue, until zachs first pass. It was behind tcole instead of in front of him but it was still better than last week, and to me, a big mental leap forward. Huge sigh of relief once that completion was made. Then next pass was the td and wilson looked very smooth and effortless on that. still obviously has a lot to work on. But its absolutely a big deal, IMO, that zach didn’t get worse from the texans game. To have the mental fortitude to work your way out of your own head so quickly… that should give him a huge confidence boost. It totally lifted my confidence in him.

2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Agreed – I was there yesterday. When Berrios took off on the opening kick I was thinking upset. Anyway had a lot of fun, and yes, the kid made all the strides you so expertly pointed out. 5 more games to do more of the same.