Zach Wilson, NY Jets, Saints, Accuracy, Stats, PFF
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

The Zach Wilson roller-coaster reaches its biggest drop yet

Zach Wilson‘s post-injury-return run was off to a nice start.

In his second game back, Wilson earned Rookie of the Week honors with a three-touchdown game against the Eagles that was arguably his best performance of the season. He built upon a decent return game against the Texans in which he showed improvement in fundamental areas but struggled with accuracy, maintaining the fundamental progress while improving his accuracy to season-best levels.

In the spirit of his wildly erratic rookie season, Wilson tumbled down to new lows just one week later.

Wilson completed 19 of 42 passes for 202 yards in a 30-9 loss to the Saints. His 45.2% completion rate is a new career low.

Even when you contextualize Wilson’s output, this still stands out as his least accurate game as a professional.

After adjusting Wilson’s stats for drops (3), throwaways (3), and batted passes (1), he still posted an adjusted completion percentage of only 57.9%.

That is the worst mark of Wilson’s career and his first sub-60% display. His previous career-low was 60.9%, set against the Houston Texans just two weeks ago.

Wilson’s 57.9% adjusted completion percentage was fourth-worst among 27 qualified quarterbacks in Week 14 (pre-Monday Night Football), but the three quarterbacks who ranked behind him – Kirk Cousins (55.2%), P.J. Walker (50.0%), and Taylor Heinicke (50.0%) – all attempted much more difficult passes.

Walker, Cousins, and Heinicke ranked second, third, and fourth, respectively, in average depth of target (aDOT) in Week 14, each throwing over 11.0 yards downfield on their average pass. So, it’s understandable that they were on-target on fewer passes. They were chucking the ball downfield.

Wilson, meanwhile, ranked only 17th in aDOT, passing the ball only 7.5 yards downfield on average. He played with only an average level of aggressiveness and still hit his target at an abysmal level of consistency.

Of the bottom-10 quarterbacks in aDOT this week, Wilson not only had the worst adjusted completion percentage, but he was lightyears behind everyone else. The gap between him and the second-worst player of the bunch – Josh Allen (75.0%) – was a whopping 17.1%. That is larger than the gap between Allen and the top-ranked player in the group (Patrick Mahomes, 90.9%, 15.9% ahead of Allen).

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Wilson has come back from his injury playing much safer football than he did to begin the year, showing an improved willingness to take underneath throws. His aDOT over the past three weeks is 7.5 compared to 9.1 over his first six starts.

However, the change in playstyle is not paying dividends since he is converting the easy short throws as often as many other quarterbacks hit the difficult deep throws.

When the quarterback plays a safe brand of football, he is supposed to make up for the decrease in explosiveness (compared to a more aggressive style of play) with an increase in consistency. If the quarterback is going to be hit-or-miss on throws that yield minimal yardage and are designed to shred the defense by being completed over and over again, the offense is not going to go anywhere.

Getting better at throwing accurately on the easy throws remains the primary goal for Wilson, just as it has been all year. With each passing week that Wilson continues to botch the same layups, it continues to feel more and more likely that substantial progress in his game cannot happen until he gets an entire offseason to hone in on his mechanics and psyche.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds 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[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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Richard Hausig
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Richard Hausig

I thought he looked caught in between trying to be safe and knowing when to let it rip. I actually feel bad for him at this point, its the same old problem, bad footwork that cascades into screwing up everything else he does. I give him credit for staying positive but that’s BS. This gets more mental by the game because he’s in way over his head. You cannot play QB in the NFL without having fundamentally sound footwork. Its like the WR who can’t run the full route tree. Any misstep can throw off the timing of the play.… Read more »

Jets71
Member
Jets71

I want to like this guy but really, other than being selected with the second overall pick in the draft what has he shown over the entire season that would make anyone think he’ll be a good pro, forget about franchise QB? I don’t see it, and I’m sorry to say I don’t think he will ever get there. It’s taking way too long to see improvement. He’s doing things never done in history for franchise QB types, and I mean doing bad things.

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

That’s exactly what I didn’t want to say. There’s no, it, to his game. I’m not a scout but you don’t need to be to see how unpolished and clumsy he looks. To hear him say that, accuracy has never been an issue, tells me he’s really good at PR or he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. But this is on the coaches and JD too. You have to know you CAN coach up this player and they have failed him in that. Why was there no vet backup? Because they knew he couldn’t beat the vet… Read more »

Richard Hausig
Member
Richard Hausig

I felt like you were high on him coming in, I know you are positive in general, but seems like now you’re really down on him.

The bigger question to me is, what is up with Joe D. I thought the first draft was well executed, didn’t love the second but I thought we could trust him. Im hoping it’s bad coaching, I guess… And I’m sure it was with Gase but this coach won’t even play most JDs 2020 picks. We gotta do better than this.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

You are 100% correct this is a mental problem and I’m not sure it can be fixed with footwork. He’s a mental disaster right now, for many reasons and quite honestly he should be playing better, regardless of his rookie status. These are elementary NFL throws, it’s not like he’s being asked to complete every tight window throw 15 yards down field. Even the passes he does complete are bad throws by NFL standards. This is a major problem and I am not sure he’s got the mental capacity to overcome it.