Zach Wilson overreaction season is here
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—Ah yes … the smell of football season nearing its exciting starting point is as unmistakable as the depths of New York City’s L Train. (It might be wise to include that one smell paints a pretty picture while the other whiff … well, there’s no need to go there.)
Freshly-cut grass, Florham Park humidity only the likes of steamy northern New Jersey could offer, and the digital equivalent of diehard New York Jets fans anxiously pondering Zach Wilson‘s unfulfilled future lead the way en route to NFL’s Week 1.
That’s right, folks … it’s OTA time for the Jets, which means obsessive Wilson banter is already flying in every irresponsible direction.
I warn you to not take the bait. I urge you to not fall for the carefully set trap. I plead with you to not pretend to be so blissfully unaware of how digital sports media operates in today’s day and age.
You, the diehard New York Jets fan, account for one of many digital content creator perks in a market featuring plenty of goodies. At the very top of the list is the idea that any news surrounding your team can be used in an extreme fashion—designed to elicit an extreme reaction.
Whether it comes by way of hopeful optimism or the frustrating end of days, the New York sports fan—via passion and quantity—makes for the very best engagement tool. Your passion allows numerous talking heads and football pundits to take bits and pieces of information en route to enraging a fan base or generating so much hope that “Jets: potential Super Bowl 56 champs?” becomes nearly commonplace in certain pockets of the social media world.
For instance, a recent NBC Sports EDGE football tweet featured the following description: “Zach Wilson struggling with accuracy in OTAs.”
Zach Wilson struggling with accuracy in OTAs https://t.co/VIrC955M1v
— NBC Sports EDGE Football (@NBCSEdgeFB) June 3, 2022
Fortunately for the Jets fan, nothing can be further from the truth.
Unfortunately for the betterment of sports humanity, the truth does not matter when social media is leading the sports media charge. After all, engagement is king no matter the realistic landing spot of the nuance or accuracy of the actual description.
Even the on-the-scene reporters who lay it out in a fair and descriptive way are not safe.
The originator of this particular report—Pro Football Network’s Mike Kaye—wrote it in a fair manner, actually citing much more than the few off-the-mark tosses Wilson began Wednesday’s session with. Yet, it was not enough to put a halt to the “Wilson is already inaccurate” social media narrative that had many fans in a tizzy.
‘Tis the season for quarterback overreaction. Not even the diehard New York Rangers fan himself, Zach Wilson, is safe.
Zach Wilson was fine
Jets X-Factor was also in attendance for the Jets’ most recent OTA session open to the media (last Wednesday). And guess what? The kid was more than fine.
Wilson’s first few throws of the day oozed the funk-feel the Jets saw Wilson slip into after the team’s Week 2 blowout loss to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. He first missed Corey Davis on a short ball in the middle of the field. Then, on a similar play-action concept, he missed Elijah Moore.
After a play-action boot (outside zone) that saw Wilson smartly throw the ball away deep, he was yet again inaccurate on another short, 3-step concept.
But that was precisely where the quarterback worries ended.
After Joe Flacco looked sharp with the second team, Wilson came back out firing in 11-on-11 action (while facing a pass rush). The BYU product hit Moore and then Braxton Berrios on inn-breaking intermediate routes for good chunks. He then overshot Corey Davis deep down the sideline, but it was not due to an inaccurate ball—rather the right placement against the specific coverage featured on the play.
Once the Jets moved into seven-on-seven action, Wilson continued to place the ball in the right spots—an encouraging sign that his play improved as the day moved forward.
Tight end Tyler Conklin dropped an easy one in the middle of the field (3-step drop), but Wilson connected with rookie Garrett Wilson on a beautifully-located ball near the right hash (10-15 yards) with Bryce Hall in coverage.
All in all, it was a run-of-the-mill output for the Jets quarterback. Perhaps the most important thing to remember—other than the designed overreaction media outlets seek—is that it’s still June (and early June no less).
The Robert Saleh plan
Unlike the first voluntary OTA session open to the media (a week prior), the June 1 session featured a full 11-on-11 teams session that the media could evaluate. Yet, again, head coach Robert Saleh opted to go just helmets and shorts (no shoulder pads, no live-action). But that’s to be expected this time of the year.
And similar to the first session, I thought the overall pace and workload was noteworthy. These are not kids who are simply going through the motions or skipping off into football la-la land. Instead, they’re getting after it, whether it comes in positionals or teams.
The team of course began with its usual stretching routine, then broke off into positionals—where the offensive and defensive linemen got after it a bit. Offensive and defensive assignments (more of an instructional period) came next, just prior to a quick teams session that preceded seven on sevens.
The day followed a more traditional in-season routine, minus any live tackling (which is also rarely seen in today’s NFL, even in-season). Field goals were worked a little after seven on sevens, as well as punt instructionals that featured release techniques.
Saleh bounced back and forth between teams and seven on sevens vs. positionals and special teams—offering up an on-and-off-type feel, which is nothing out of the ordinary for this coaching staff.
Considering that these are voluntary OTAs, credit the coaching staff for the overall structure, pace and attitude that’s currently being put forth in Florham Park, NJ.
Along with the Zach Wilson overreaction, the other summer tradition involves gauging the depth chart. Be careful when doing this based on voluntary OTAs or even mandatory minicamp.
This coaching staff loves to rotate—as it should.
The roster’s overall youth and inexperience should lead to a rotation not only second and third-team deep but also among the starters, and that’s exactly what’s been happening in the early going. Perhaps the only rookie that can be safely penciled in as a day No. 1 starter is cornerback Sauce Gardner. Not even Garrett Wilson is a lock and nor should he be, considering his fellow wide receivers.
Michael Carter and Breece Hall, along with others, are firmly entrenched in a rotation. The same can be said for the aforementioned Garrett Wilson and his teammates—although the top trio from a year ago should be considered the three current starters at this very moment.
Long story short: Saleh and the coaching staff believe in the old-fashioned notion that rookies should have to earn their place in the organization.
As previously mentioned, Joe Flacco looked in control while playing with the second team. His placement was on the money from the jump, as he found tight end Kenny Yeboah a couple of times for a couple of decent chunks downfield. Flacco also found Trevon Wesco on a Shanahan-esque play-action concept (use your imagination).
Perhaps the offensive highlight of the day belonged to Flacco and Berrios, who connected a 50-plus-yard bomb.
Mike White slung the ball decently well, too. He connected with undrafted rookie Irvin Charles for a 15-25-yard gain on an inn-breaking route, and he also found Corey Davis a couple of plays later on a nicely delivered ball that led to a big YAC opportunity.
In red-zone seven-on-seven action, Wilson looked for Garrett Wilson near the right-side back pylon. The ball fell incomplete due to the coverage Sauce Gardner showcased on his fellow rook. A defensive pass interference could have been whistled on the kid—although the action was far enough away where nobody could be certain.
One of Wilson’s final passes saw him complete a touchdown to Berrios on a nicely-run red-zone route.
The lone interception in 11 on 11 or seven on sevens came courtesy of safety Jovante Moffatt, who snagged a gift theft that was tipped up into the air (Mike White pass).
The New York Jets get back after it (OTAs open to the media) on Wednesday, June 8. Remain glued to Jets X-Factor for the recent happenings.