With a more comfortable Zach Wilson, the New York Jets offense is starting to fulfill its potential
In the Jet X crew season predictions, I had this to say about the 2022 New York Jets season:
“The Jets make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, led by a very strong ground game. Zach Wilson will play average football and the defense will be able to force turnovers despite allowing a good amount of yards.”
That’s exactly where the Jets are at right now – especially on offense.
After 20 games, it’s safe to say that Mike LaFleur’s unit has finally reached (not “found”; it was always there) its identity: A run-oriented offense that can produce despite the quarterback play (and not because of it).
That’s by no means a shot at Zach Wilson, who’s played good football after returning from injury.
Truly, that remark is just a compliment to New York’s coaching staff, which finally has this offense playing the way it was built to. I say “way it was built to” because this team’s roster construction was clear: It all starts in the trenches.
Joe Douglas didn’t spend two high first round-picks plus big free agent money on the offensive line only to have them stand in pass pro. He also did not draft two skilled running backs to have them pass-protect and run check-down routes.
Douglas did these things because he (and Robert Saleh as well) believes in the value of building an offense from and through the trenches.
After all, despite all of the unlucky injuries upfront, a competent running game that uplifts the entire offense is exactly what New York has right now.
The New York Jets, by simply running the ball and having Wilson execute the layups, will be in every game they play until the end of the 2022 season. And that’s thanks to the young core, highlighted by Breece Hall, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Garrett Wilson, which hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
Mike LaFleur deserves credit for the current state of the Jets offense. He has insisted on the ground game over the past two weeks, amidst Zach Wilson’s return, and it’s paying off.
I wrote multiple times this season that the Jets’ offense would only work with the threat of the run present. That’s where the strength of this scheme (even defensive scheme, to be honest) is at. Run the ball, create easy throws for your quarterback and keep your defense rested on the sidelines. That’s the formula.
From now on, teams will have to prepare for the Jets’ ground game and find answers to slow down Breece Hall, Michael Carter, and, also, Braxton Berrios.
And that’s where LaFleur will be able to take advantage through the air, especially on early downs: by scheming easy throws for Zach Wilson, such as the one to Breece Hall, on a wheel route, for 79 yards.
If Wilson takes the next step, this offense’s potential is through the roof.
Zach Wilson’s performance vs. Miami
Regarding the Jets’ young quarterback, for what it’s worth, there are still some things to clean up (especially in what relates to his mechanics). There are also some plays where it feels like the game still needs to slow down a bit from him.
Nonetheless, Zach Wilson’s overall poise and control have been extremely encouraging, whereas his killer instinct in the fourth quarter should not be overlooked.
The truth is, Wilson is much closer to the player who had a strong finish to the 2021 season than to the player Jets fans saw early in his rookie year. That’s the sign every Jets fans should’ve hoped for before No. 2 came back from his knee injury.
As my breakdown below shows, it’s a matter of time before Wilson joins his young teammates and has his breakout performance.
He’s hitting the layups. He’s thinking faster. All that Wilson needs to do is allow himself to take the big shots without thinking twice.
Since the Jets are moving the ball so well on the ground and the offense is working, I believe Wilson is a bit tentative to throw the ball down the field, as he is afraid to commit turnovers.
Once Wilson understands that the Jets will take the reward over the risk of his explosive plays, he’ll take the next step.
And that, without a doubt, would make this offense extremely dangerous.