Zach Wilson, NY Jets, Stats, Injury
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Zach Wilson is taking baby steps forward in some important areas

I cannot, will not, and shall not deny that there are countless legitimate criticisms we can levy upon Zach Wilson right now. I’m sure to touch on quite a few of them when I get to my weekly grading breakdown later this week.

But I’m here to do a little bit of narrative correction.

While Wilson’s overall outlook is undeniably on the negative side, there are a few positive developments that he has made since his Week 12 return that are not getting enough attention.

1. Improved intermediate accuracy

On the whole, Wilson’s accuracy remains a roller coaster. His two least accurate outings of the season in terms of adjusted completion percentage both came after his return from injury (Week 12 at Houston and Week 14 vs. New Orleans), while he also had his most accurate game of the year after returning (Week 13 vs. Philadelphia).

However, Wilson’s accuracy is trending up in one particular range where he was struggling to begin the year: the intermediate area.

From Weeks 1-7, Wilson had an adjusted completion percentage of 55.3% in the intermediate range (10-19 yards downfield), which ranked 29th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks. He was one spot behind Trevor Lawrence and one spot ahead of Jared Goff.

Since Week 12, Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage on intermediate throws has risen to 62.5%, which ranks 11th out of 35 qualifiers over that span.

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2. Interception reduction

It’s been a while now since Wilson was a turnover-prone quarterback.

Wilson had nine interceptions over his first five starts, tossing at least one pick in each game. He threw 171 passes over that span, which means he threw an interception on 5.3% of his attempts.

For reference, the average interception rate in the NFL this season is 2.4%, and the highest rate among qualifiers belongs to Justin Fields at 3.7%.

Since then, Wilson has drastically cut down on the interceptions.

Over his last five starts, Wilson has two interceptions on 137 passes, giving him an excellent interception rate of 1.5%. That is equal to the fourth-best rate among qualifiers this season (owned by Ben Roethlisberger, who has 7 interceptions on 480 passes).

Wilson has five total touchdowns (2 pass, 3 rush) and three turnovers (2 interceptions, 1 fumble) over his past four starts. While that ratio is nothing otherworldly, it is a massive improvement over the four touchdowns and nine turnovers he had over his first six starts.

3. Taking advantage of clean pockets

One of Wilson’s biggest issues earlier in the season was that he could not take advantage of situations in which he received good pass protection. His clean-pocket passing was abysmal.

From Weeks 1-7, Wilson was tied with fellow rookie Davis Mills for the most interceptions thrown out of a clean pocket with a whopping seven of them over 119 clean attempts (5.9% rate). He earned an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 65.6 on clean-pocket plays, which ranked 32nd out of 36 qualified quarterbacks.

Wilson has done a better of capitalizing on advantageous situations since returning from injury. Since Week 12, he has thrown only one interception on 95 clean-pocket pass attempts (1.1% rate). His overall PFF grade from a clean pocket has leaped to 74.6, ranking 14th out of 37 qualified quarterbacks over the past four weeks.

It is under pressure where Wilson must improve significantly. He has an NFL-worst 26.3 PFF grade when pressured since Week 12. But it is at least promising to see that he is getting better at maximizing favorable situations.

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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] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Keith Beckett
Keith Beckett
1 year ago

ZW has continued to progress in a positive manner, especially since returning from his injury. He was close to 20 mph when he scrambled out of the pocket against the Jags, leading to a 52 yd TD and 90+ yards rushing ( both franchise records ). While his critics say he barely threw for 100 yards, I say “So what “ the Jets got the Win. They leaned heavily on the run as expected with the top 3 WR’s and both starting OG’s missing. No, he isn’t ready for Canton but he certainly looks to me like the franchise QB we have been so desperately seeking.

1 year ago

I have been a big critic. His last game was the most encouraging to me. Yes the hot start didn’t translate into the second half but let’s be honest, his WR group is underwhelming and it was only a matter of time before, not the “backup LT” but the THIRD string LT gave way. Are there things he could have done better? Sure. Did he look like he belongs on an NFL field? Yes. And, as mentioned below, he did make some nice plays with his feet. I hope he can now carry over some things rather than regress here and gain some place else.

Barney Miller
Barney Miller
1 year ago

I’d add a fourth. His scrambling ability. Some of those free runners got to him, but he had three or four plays against the fins where he looked down right amazing at avoiding the sack. Especially the trick play with the pass to Griffin, but even better was the 3 & 6 where the pocket broke down and he scrambled for a first. (Then he did a silly celebration, but he’s a kid.)