To lead the New Look Jets’ offense into unfamiliar territory, Zach Wilson must vastly improve upon fundamental traits
The stage is set. Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, will soon begin Year 2 in Green & White (exact date TBD).
The fact of the matter is all eyes are going to be on the development of Wilson. Every detail from each snap will be so closely scrutinized by the fans and the media. And fair or not, the juggernaut that is social media will constantly compare his weekly performances to the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, etc.
Everyone wants one (massive) question answered:
“Is Zach Wilson the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback?”
Joe Douglas has spent the last couple off-seasons trying to build a roster that will give Zach the best chance to answer that question in the affirmative. We know the names: Laken Tomlinson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Duane Brown, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Michael Carter, Breece Hall, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert. Quite the overhaul.
Now, despite the fact that they have yet to play a game together, it’s difficult not to get excited about the potential of this group. Enduring years of unwatchable offensive football, there is a sense that Douglas assembled an intriguing combination of young, explosive talent with experienced veterans that will put the Jets in position to change the course of their recently unbearable offensive history.
Unfamiliar territory sounds about right. A New York Jets quarterback is set up with surrounding talent? The time is now.
It’s imperative that Wilson put on his noise-cancelling headphones, keep his head down and silence the crowd by grabbing the opportunity by the horns.
Be honest about where you are so you can get to where you want to be
On June 16, 2022, the New York Jets released Episode 1 of the docuseries “Flight 2022”. There is a moment in the episode where Zach Wilson is sitting on his couch watching game film, and he says this:
“You know we go back and we watch the rookie season and most of the time you’re sitting there thinking… what am I doing?”
That seems to be a rather accurate, honest and straight to the point assessment. The BYU product’s rookie season was filled with hard-to-watch moments and head-scratching stretches. Over the course of this past off-season, it was important for Zach to sit down, turn the tape on, and be honest in his evaluation.
The only way to grow is to understand where you’re at so you know what needs to be done to take a step forward.
That quote prompted me to look at Zach’s rookie season in a different light. After studying the film, I’ve created what I believe to be a guide to how the young quarterback can greatly improve upon his rookie performance and breathe life into this talented Jets offense.
Yes, the key to Zach Wilson’s 2022 improvement is the acronym C.P.R. Just hang with me on this one – here’s what it means:
C: Comfortability and Creativity
Comfortability is slowing the game down. It’s being able to play fast without being in a hurry; being calm at the snap and delivering the football with confidence.
I paired comfortability with creativity because once Zach looks more comfortable (especially in the pocket), those splash/highlight plays he is capable of making will come not only more natural but more often. In becoming more comfortable with the routine, the opportunities to be creative by showing off his level of talent will be more prevalent.
P: Progression and Protection
This is the follow up to comfortability.
Earlier in August, Mike LaFleur talked about Zach thinking too much in Year 1 rather than just playing the position. Post-snap progression needs to become second nature. If it’s not there, move on to #2 or know where your check down is.
I paired progression with protection because as Zach goes through his progression, he has to remember to take care of the football – both while he’s in the pocket and when he goes to extend the play. In my opinion, unless Zach has egregiously missed an open receiver, extending the play only to make the football a souvenir is a positive.
R: Read and Rhythm
Admittedly, I actually struggled with how I wanted to explain this one. I knew read and rhythm were extremely important and fit perfectly but I had difficulty distinguishing rhythm from comfortability.
Then, I listened to an episode of The Pivot Podcast where Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was interviewed. Leftwich was asked what makes Tom Brady special. Now, I was thinking what everyone else was – here comes an answer we’ve heard a million times. Wrong.
Leftwich said, “The simplicity that he sees the game and he doesn’t get bored. If the flat route is there, he is going to take it, if #1’s open in the progression, he’s going to take it – 100% of the time.”
All of that is to say this: this is all about stacking positives. Zach needs to do more of what we were hoping he would do last year. Take the yards, get the football in the hands of your playmakers in space, move the chains, and do the little things right. Get in your rhythm and bring the other 10 guys with you.
It is my opinion that if Zach follows this guide through each and every drive, he will have answered each and every question that has been asked about him since his rookie season ended. The byproduct of that? The Jets offense will be described by a word that has escaped their vocabulary for over a decade: consistent.
Ultimately, the film breakdown features roughly 45 plays from Zach’s rookie season (and 2 bonus plays from BYU – couldn’t help it). A mix of some bad, some OK and some really good. There are plays for Zach to improve upon but also plays for him to build upon and gain confidence from.
The film breakdown focuses on Zach’s mechanics. The mechanics, for me, falls within the comfortability category. Sure, the breakdown sprinkles in the other aspects of C.P.R. and the X’s and O’s. But at this point, the 2022 season is less than a week away and everyone has mostly seen these plays. I wanted the breakdown to be from a different perspective.
Besides, breaking the plays down from a mechanical outlook was a ton of fun. It’ll be even more fun to look back after each week of Zach’s sophomore campaign and apply C.P.R.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.