Zach Wilson had one of his best games yet against the Jaguars
How important was this week’s win for the young, under-construction New York Jets locker room?
It doesn’t matter that it was against the 2-13 Jaguars. It doesn’t matter that it had zero playoff implications.
Those things are minor when compared to the importance of quarterback Zach Wilson’s development and this roster’s ability to win close games.
What truly matters is that Wilson put his team on his back after a turbulent week filled with players dropping like flies due to injuries and COVID-19. Defensively, what matters is that a defense missing key pieces showed killer instinct and finished the game.
And it does matter, maybe above all, that many “bottom of the roster” players showed up and played good football. It shows how great of a personnel guy Joe Douglas is – and Jets fans shouldn’t forget about it.
Wilson, specifically, had another game that could be labeled as his best one yet.
The young quarterback himself said that it was “the most comfortable and free he’s played this year,” adding that he was “just feeling relaxed and calm and having a good sense of what was going on, what I was getting.”
To sum it up, Wilson said, “I just felt like I was having fun out there and was just able to play ball like I have my whole life.”
It is great to see Wilson finally having fun in the pros. It’s proof that the game is finally becoming mundane for him and that he’s ready for the spotlight.
His stat sheet wasn’t flashy, but the overall Jets performance in Week 16 was what I expected from Wilson and the Jets offense before the season: a run-first approach led by a lot of pre-snap motion to give the defense some eye candy, featuring easy completions on RPOs and a lot of play-action passes.
That, to me, was the magical formula the Jets should have followed since day one.
Of course, it’s tough to build a ground game when you are always behind. And the Jets’ offensive line is a much better unit than it was early in the season. They are a solid group right now, and offensive line coach John Benton should get some praise.
Considering Wilson’s inability to stay calm a few weeks ago, it’s awesome to have him play a good game when everything went wrong for the team around him during the week.
It shows how poised he can be.
Below is a complete film breakdown of Wilson’s performance against Jacksonville, a game where he showed the great things that made him the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Winning is the ultimate goal
Wilson is playing better, but it’s interesting to note how impactful “time together” can be for football players.
It’s the ultimate team sport, and this team will continue to grow as everybody gets to know and understand each other better.
Zach is now much more confident in everything around him, from playcalling, to protection, to receivers. And, especially, now he understands that his defense gets paid as well and he doesn’t need to win the game in every play.
It’s a collaborative effort – an effort that just gets more solid as this team wins.
Wilson was an overthinking machine not so long ago. He’s calmer now, so everything he does is better: footwork, accuracy, reads – everything.
He’s far from perfect, but it’s safe to say that he has retaken the rookie quarterback curve. Wilson will make mistakes, but Jets fans are finally seeing his potential shine in spurts.
In past years, meaningless December wins have hurt this team’s draft slot while not adding much to the long-term future.
It’s time to scratch that notion of “meaningless” under Saleh and Douglas.
The Jaguars win was important in building long-term confidence for Wilson and the locker room, and the same will be true if the Jets pull out an unlikely win over the next two weeks.
Unlike past years, the majority of the 2021 Jets’ players and coaches will still be here next season (Wilson, rookies, DL and OL, etc.).
Winning late in the season isn’t necessarily going to “carry momentum” into 2022. But a win can be a turning point. A win can be the moment in which the locker room starts to believe in the team’s potential to be good.
And that could be the difference-maker.