Zach Wilson settled down vs. Philly, playing a good first half of football until cooling down in the second half.
The much-loved black uniforms were not enough for the New York Jets to snap an eleven-game losing streak to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Neither was Zach Wilson’s impressive performance.
Wilson showed clear signs of improvement against Philly. Still, the Jets quarterback has a lot of room for growth.
New York’s first-round pick had one of his best games as a pro. However, the Eagles’ running game was too much for the Jets’ defense to handle. New York only had the ball for one minute and ten seconds in the third quarter, which took Wilson out of his comfort zone.
Wilson, 22, improved in some areas of his game that were glaring weaknesses early in the season.
The BYU product was more aware of where to go with the football and more decisive when executing quick game concepts. Wilson was also a calming presence, not looking like the overthinking machine we all saw a week ago in Houston.
Zach deserves a lot of credit for his noticeable improvement. Having said that, it’s worth highlighting Mike LaFleur’s smart game plan.
The rookie play-caller had a clear goal early in the game: make it simple for Zach Wilson.
That’s why the Jets’ first completion over ten yards did not come until the second quarter, on the team’s third drive. It was Wilson’s ninth pass attempt, on a defined throw to Elijah Moore on a deep curl.
LaFleur started the game with easy quick game concepts and short, defined throws to get Wilson in rhythm.
Besides that, LaFleur’s wise pre-snap motion usage was a factor in Wilson’s calm demeanor. The Eagles didn’t disguise their defense much, so motioning players pre-snap gave Wilson a good idea of what to expect coverage-wise.
It was a collaborative effort that culminated in Wilson’s best game within the structure of the offense thus far.
Zach Wilson improved, but he can still get better in those two areas
Ball placement and overall accuracy are two nuances that Wilson must focus on. No. 2 missed some layups against Philly – both on short and intermediate throws.
Wilson himself acknowledged after the game that he needs to be better with his accuracy. The Jets quarterback specifically mentioned his miss to Tevin Coleman, in the flat, when the ball hit the Jets’ RB in his helmet.
“(…) the one to (Tevin Coleman) and the other running backs, those guys aren’t receivers, their job isn’t to make a bunch of crazy catches,” Wilson said. “Those guys have great hands, but how can I make it as easy as possible for those guys? So that’s been a goal, just how can I give them a nice, easy ball to catch?”
Zach is so hard on himself (in a good way) that he even mentioned a miss to Elijah Moore when he didn’t have to. This answer came when Wilson was asked about how his chemistry with Moore is positively evolving.
“I still feel like we had one in the second half, I’ve got to feel how he’s coming out of his route, there was one I missed a little off to the left. That’s a connection throw right there. That’s going to be something with time that we’re going to fix.”
Wilson’s accuracy issues, well noted above, are still related to how he uses (or doesn’t) his lower body.
The signal-caller’s feet weren’t as messy as before, but he still has room for improvement there.
Wilson’s inability to point his left foot to the target is what hurts him on the throws that demand more zip – specifically quick game and intermediate patterns.
Another reason for Zach’s ball placement issue is that Wilson is “aiming” his quick game throws. It’s almost like he’s afraid to miss, so he throws the ball with a touch of hesitancy.
All the above improved against Philly, but still can get better.
At the end of the day, though, Week 13 was a positive one for Wilson.
He took the underneath stuff gladly and still showed some juice on a couple of off-schedule plays. The negatives, like the accuracy miscues, are little things that probably can only be corrected in the offseason.
Until then, seeing a calmer Wilson means the world right now. And that was what Jets fans saw this past Sunday.
Just like last week, this week’s Sidearm Session will be a mixed-bag review of Wilson.
With most of Wilson’s throws against Philadelphia broken down, all of the important good and bad aspects of his performance can be seen below.
Looking ahead to the Saints game: Wilson will face a more aggressive defense
The Saints’ defense is a tough matchup for Wilson, despite being ranked 22nd overall against the pass.
Dennis Allen, New Orleans’ defensive coordinator, does the complete opposite of Philly’s coaches. Allen likes to disguise and show aggressive pressure looks, especially on third down.
Wilson has had problems with those kinds of defenses in his career thus far.
New Orleans is the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense against the run, which puts a lot of pressure on Wilson to execute on early downs. New York must avoid third down and long at all costs, or they will be in trouble.
This will also be Wilson’s second game without Corey Davis, who is now out for the season.
Wilson is going to miss Davis, despite the former Titan having a letdown year. He was the young quarterback’s security blanket and the main target on third downs.
It’s going to be a golden opportunity for Denzel Mims, Joe Douglas’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, to show he belongs.
Overall, the Jets’ offense will be facing a tough matchup. The Saints stop the run and can confuse Wilson on third downs with simulated pressure looks.
Considering those circumstances, it will be a great sign if the Jets’ young signal-caller continues to improve next week.
It will be a reassurance that he’s on the right path.