How well did Zach Wilson perform against the Miami Dolphins?
Our QB Grades series continues with Zach Wilson’s second start of the 2022 season.
Wilson helped lead the Jets to a 40-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins. How well did he play? That’s what we are here to find out. I graded the New York Jets’ starting quarterback on every single play from 0-to-10 to generate a consummate 0-to-100 overall score for his performance in the game.
Before we get into Wilson’s performance, check out the explanation and glossary below if you are unfamiliar with how my QB Grades series works.
My goal with this grading system is to capture the true quality of the quarterback’s performance. Box score statistics are usually misleading, as they do not account for a variety of factors that determine whether a quarterback performed well or poorly on a given play.
After re-watching each play on the All-22 film, I grade it on a 0-to-10 scale. Once I’m finished grading each play, I take the average of all plays to form a 0-to-100 overall score with 50 being approximately league-average (based on my studying of numerous other quarterback performances across the league).
Here are just a handful of the primary factors that are taken into account in the grading of each play, and a basic description of what I’m looking for:
- Decision-making (Did the QB choose the best available option or did he leave a better play on the field? Regardless of if a ball is intercepted or not, did the QB put the ball in danger of being intercepted?)
- Throw difficulty (Clean pocket or pressured? Wide open or tight window? Stationary or on the move? More difficult throws are more valuable.)
- Accuracy/placement (Even if the pass is completed, was the ball placed in the best possible spot or did the receiver have to make an extra effort to catch it? Was the ball placed in a spot that maximized YAC? Did the QB protect his receiver from a big hit?)
- Game situation – score, time, field position, down and distance (Good decisions based on the clock/situation are crucial. Playing the sticks is also important – it is not a good play to complete a tightly covered 5-yard out on third-and-10 while a 15-yard dig is open, but a 5-yard out on third-and-4 is good.)
Ultimately, it’s all about context. Not all 40-yard completions are created equal. Not all interceptions are created equal. You need to watch a play to understand whether the quarterback did a good or bad job. The raw result of a play cannot give you that answer.
When we analyze every play on film multiple times and grade the quarterback’s individual effort independent of his surroundings or the on-paper outcome of the play, we get a much better estimation of how well he actually played.
Of course, keep in mind that these grades are subjective. They are but one man’s opinion and are not intended to be viewed as gospel. Feel free to let me know your takes on my grades for these performances.
For each performance, I include a few metrics that help explain how Wilson arrived at his final grade.
These are some of the metrics I will break down for every Wilson outing.
Overall grade: 0-to-100 grade based on the average score of all plays analyzed. An estimation of individual performance quality.
Positive plays: Number of plays graded above 5.0: above-average efforts.
Negative plays: Number of plays graded below 5.0: below-average efforts.
Neutral plays: Number of plays graded as a 5.0: plays that are not noticeably good or bad. These are typically lost plays or plays in which the QB can hardly be evaluated: screens, batted passes, miscommunications, and unavoidable sacks are commonly graded as a 5.0.
Positive/negative ratio: Ratio of positive plays to negative plays. Defines the quarterback’s consistency level.
Average positive score: The average score of all positive plays. An indicator of how high the quarterback’s peaks were — a higher score indicates his best plays were often highlight-reel-worthy while a lower score indicates that his best plays were typically unspectacular.
Average negative score: The average score of all negative plays. An indicator of how low the quarterback’s valleys were — a higher score indicates his mistakes were typically minor while a lower score indicates that his mistakes were typically brutal.
Wow Factor: Combination of average positive and average negative. An indicator of the combined ability to avoid big mistakes and produce outstanding moments.
7+ plays: Number of plays graded 7.0 or better: elite moments. Big-time plays, if you will.
≤3 plays: Number of plays graded 3.0 or worse: brutal moments. The ones that make Jets fans throw things at their TV.
Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Zach Wilson‘s 2022 home debut against the Miami Dolphins. Wilson’s box-score line of 210 passing yards and 0 passing touchdowns won’t turn any heads. But was he actually much better than that?
Time to hop in.
Zach Wilson’s Grade vs. Miami Dolphins
- Nania’s Overall Grade: 76.0 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Awful: <30)
- Plays graded: 26
- Neutral plays: 3
- Positive plays: 19 (73.1%) – (Average: 50%, Phenomenal: >60%, Poor: <40%)
- Negative plays: 4 (15.4%) – (Average: 30%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 4.75 – (Average: 2.00, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 5.80 – (Average: 5.90, High: 6.00+, Low: <5.80)
- Average negative: 4.38 – (Average: 3.80, High: 4.00+, Low: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 10.18 – (Average: 9.70, Phenomenal: 10.00+, Poor: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 3 (11.5%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 0 (0.0%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
- Actual stats: 14/21 for 210 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT (10.0 Y/A, 99.3 QB rating). 2 sacks for 23 yards. 4 rushes for 2 yards. 1 rushing TD.
Throw the box score and the fantasy points out the window. Wilson was tremendous in this game.
I scored Wilson with an excellent grade of 76.0. It is the second-best grade I have given him across 15 career games, coming within a hair of his 76.1 grade against the Buccaneers in Week 17 of his rookie year.
As evidenced by the breakdown of grading categories seen above, Wilson’s consistency was the highlight of this performance. It is the most consistent game I have seen him play in the NFL. He set career-bests in positive-negative ratio, positive-play percentage, and negative-play percentage. Wilson was absolutely dialed in, making mistakes on an extremely limited basis.
When Wilson did make mistakes, they were minor. He made no turnover-worthy plays, did not have any egregiously inaccurate throws, and did not make any terrible decisions. This is evidenced by his career-best average negative score of 4.38. Additionally, I did not score Wilson with a score of 3.0 or worse (awful plays) on any of his 26 plays. It is just the second game of his career in which he pulled that off (along with last year’s Miami game).
This game continues the upward trajectory Wilson has been on since the start of his rookie year.
Over the first six games of his career, I had Wilson’s grade at a woeful 39.5. He then missed four games with an injury. Over the first four games following his Week 12 return, he improved to a 48.8 grade.
Since that point, Wilson has been surging upward. Starting with his Week 16 game against the Jaguars, I have Wilson’s grade at a sparkling 64.8 over his past five games. That includes grades of 70.0+ against the Jaguars, Buccaneers, and now, the Dolphins.
Wilson’s progress is apparent when looking at my grade log throughout his career.
Why did Wilson’s box score stats vs. Miami undersell him in comparison to his actual performance level?
Well, Wilson did complete 67% of his passes for 10.0 yards per attempt (both career-highs), and he led the offense to 40 points (also a career-high). All three of those numbers are strong and match up closely with how well he actually played.
What makes his performance look uninspiring to the average fan is his low volume of pass attempts (resulting in fewer total yards despite the high Y/A) and his lack of passing touchdowns (which also significantly lowers his passer rating, since passing touchdowns are a huge factor in the passer rating formula).
As for the low volume of pass attempts, that’s simply a product of how well the Jets were running the ball and the fact that the Jets closed this game out around halfway through the fourth quarter. The game script just didn’t call for Wilson to throw the ball very much. But when the Jets needed him to throw, he was great, which is all that matters regardless of the volume.
His lack of passing touchdowns hardly means anything. Wilson had two 20+ yard completions that were stopped at the one-yard line, and both times, the Jets followed up by rushing it in because they were running the ball well. Who cares whether the Jets punch the ball in via the pass or the rush? Would it make that much of a difference if Breece Hall got one more yard on those catches? Wilson’s great performance is a primary reason why the Jets were in position to score those one-yard rushing touchdowns in the first place.
Additionally, Wilson had a 5-yard rushing touchdown, which doesn’t boost his passing stats but helps the Jets’ chances of winning just as much as a 5-yard passing touchdown. If you just switched Wilson’s touchdown from a rush to a pass, his passer rating would jump from 99.3 to 115.6 – showcasing the volatility of that metric. It’s the same exact outcome and yet one makes him look significantly better than the other.
Without further ado, let’s turn on the film and look at some of Wilson’s most notable plays from this game.
Zach Wilson film vs. Miami Dolphins
For each play in the breakdown, I’ll list the grade I gave him for that play. Anything above 5.0 is positive and helps push his overall game grade above 50.0, and vice versa for anything below 5.0.
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (15:00) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short middle to G.Wilson to NYJ 36 for 11 yards (J.Holland).
From the get-go, you could see that Wilson was dialed-in. He was making fast, decisive reads and was prepared to get the football out quickly and accurately.
Here, Wilson pulls the ball out of the play fake and fires to Garrett Wilson for 11 yards on the game’s opening play. I like the placement. Zach puts the ball slightly behind Garrett in a spot where it is still easy to catch but also leads him away from the pursuing defender, protecting him from a big hit. Grade: 5.75
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (14:26) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to Mi.Carter pushed ob at NYJ 42 for 6 yards (N.Needham).
Again, Wilson displays the decisiveness and quick thinking that were common themes in this game. Once he sees the two inside linebackers bail, he knows Michael Carter has an advantageous matchup in the flat against the edge defender. Wilson immediately gets him the ball and leads him downfield for a nice first-down pickup. The ball is a little low, but it’s still a good play. Grade: 5.25
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (12:31) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to E.Moore to MIA 40 for 11 yards (Br.Jones).
Wilson is cooking with the play fakes out of the gun. Here, he baits the defensive end to cheat inside, and that lets C.J. Uzomah pin him inside and clear Wilson out for a completely un-pressured rollout. Elijah Moore runs a good route and Wilson leads him downfield for the first down. Grade: 5.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (6:39) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to E.Moore.
Nice read and anticipation on the out to Moore, but Wilson comes up short. Got to hit this one. It looks like he shortens his stride with the pocket caving in. Nevertheless, this is the only play of the game in which I graded Wilson negatively due to his accuracy. He threw the ball very well. Grade: 4.25
3rd & 7 – Qtr: 1, (5:54) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to C.Davis pushed ob at NYJ 48 for 17 yards (N.Igbinoghene).
Now that’s how you throw an out. Wilson sees a slot blitz coming and stands tall in the pocket, trusting Breece Hall to hold up – which he does. From the opposite hash, Wilson fires across the field and hits Corey Davis between the 8 and the 4 on his chest. Big third-down conversion. Grade: 6.0
3rd & 4 – Qtr: 1, (3:16) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to E.Moore.
I consider this a minor missed opportunity for Wilson. He has a small window to hit Moore in the back of the end zone, but elects to throw the ball away. There’s also a small window for him to check the ball down to Uzomah for a first down.
I won’t kill him for this play, though. The two throwing windows are relatively tight and the pressure off his left side makes things difficult. I commend him for taking the safe play and throwing the ball away. Still, I think there is some meat left on the bone here, so I dinged him with a minor negative grade. Grade: 4.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 1, (:52) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep left to Br.Hall to MIA 1 for 79 yards (K.Kohou).
There’s nothing overly difficult about this one for Wilson, but he does exactly what the Jets need him to: maximize Hall’s YAC. Wilson puts the ball in a perfect spot for Hall, making it easy to catch while also allowing him to catch it in-stride.
Think back to Wilson’s throw to Moore on a wide-open wheel route against the Patriots last year. Wilson completed it to Moore for 27 yards, but it should have been a 49-yard touchdown, as Wilson put the ball in a poor spot that led Moore out of bounds and eliminated his YAC potential.
Just because a throw is a gimme to complete, it does not mean it is a gimme to place it in the perfect spot and maximize yardage. Wilson accomplished that here. Grade: 5.5
1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (9:49) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to T.Conklin (J.Baker).
This is a plus play in my book. Many quarterbacks are getting sacked or throwing the ball away here. Not only does Wilson avoid the sack, but instead of throwing the ball away, he manages to create a big-play opportunity.
The throw isn’t perfect as it falls a bit short, but it’s essentially a 50-50 ball that also has a high probability of drawing a defensive penalty. Unfortunately, Conklin does not come up with the ball and the Jets also don’t get a flag, but the fact that Wilson even created the chance for those things to happen makes this a significantly above-expectation effort for me. Grade: 6.0
2nd & 15 – Qtr: 2, (9:38) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson [Z.Sieler].
This is a really good throwaway. The odds of a sack here are fairly high, but Wilson finds an eligible receiver and chucks the ball in his direction to save a chunk of yards. Grade: 5.25
2nd & 12 – Qtr: 2, (7:23) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to G.Wilson to MIA 42 for 13 yards (N.Needham).
Zach seems to be gaining a lot of trust in his receivers to win their routes. He locates Garrett in a one-on-one in the slot. Garrett wins on his pivot route and Zach quickly delivers the ball as Garrett comes out of his break. The placement is great, as Zach puts the ball away from the defender and allows Garret to catch-and-turn. It helps Garrett get the momentum he needs to gain plenty of YAC. Grade: 5.75
3rd & Goal – Qtr: 2, (2:45) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson scrambles right tackle for 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
To me, this is an elite quarterback run. There is absolutely nothing open. Wilson has zero chance of making a play through the air. Scrambling is the only way a touchdown gets scored here, and Wilson pulls it off despite the window of opportunity being small.
Watch how Wilson manipulates the nose tackle to open up the scrambling lane. Wilson hops left to shake the NT in that direction, which works successfully, opening a lane through the right A-gap. Wilson knows there is nothing open and immediately sets his sights on the goal line. He outruns the Miami defense and shows off his athleticism and toughness with a diving finish.
I think there are only a handful of QBs in the league who would have scored on this play. This is truly elite playmaking in my view. Grade: 8.0
4th & 1 – Qtr: 3, (5:30) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to C.Davis.
This is Wilson’s biggest mistake of the game in my opinion. On 4th & 1, Wilson does not need to think big. If he stays patient and gets to his third read on the left side, he would see Conklin toasting his man to get open for an easy, short completion that would move the chains. Instead, Wilson heaves a bomb to Davis that falls incomplete.
The throw to Davis is actually decent, and there arguably should have been a penalty called. Nevertheless, Wilson made this harder than it had to be. An easy first down was open. Grade: 4.0
1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (3:55) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to Mi.Carter to NYJ 13 for 6 yards (E.Roberts).
Another example of the quick, sound decision-making Wilson displayed all afternoon. Wilson immediately recognizes that none of his routes will be open except the swing to Carter, so he wastes no time getting Carter the football. It’s a well-placed ball that leads Carter upfield and the Jets get a good gain on first down. Grade: 5.5
2nd & 4 – Qtr: 3, (3:13) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep left to E.Moore.
I think you can make a strong argument Wilson should just take the easy, short throw to Davis here. I wouldn’t disagree. But on second and short, it’s a reasonable situation to take a shot. And if you look at what Wilson sees when reading this play, Moore is wide open. So, I totally understand why Wilson decided to go for the bigger play.
Wilson makes a fantastic throw here, launching it across his body and placing it outside where only Moore can get it. Moore just doesn’t get his feet down in-bounds. Grade: 7.0
3rd & 4 – Qtr: 3, (3:05) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to J.Smith pushed ob at NYJ 24 for 11 yards (K.Kohou).
On the next play after his incompletion to Moore, Wilson makes sure to keep things moving. Davis frees up Jeff Smith with a rub and Wilson execute the simple read and throw to move the chains. The easy stuff is finally becoming routine for Wilson. There were no jitters for him in this game. Grade: 5.25
2nd & 8 – Qtr: 3, (1:51) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 9 for -17 yards (Br.Jones).
This is my final negative play of the game for Wilson, and it’s a very minor one. It’s a hellish situation as Wilson comes out of the play fake with a free rusher coming from his left side. However, I do think Wilson has the opportunity to throw this ball at Garrett’s feet to avoid the sack, but Wilson tries to escape the rusher and ends up making things worse as the sack turns into a 17-yard loss.
With the pressure coming in so quick and from such a dangerous angle, I can hardly blame Wilson for this sack. Still, I think there was enough of a window to get rid of the football that he deserves a tiny bit of blame. Grade: 4.75
1st & 10 – Qtr: 4, (13:15) Z.Wilson pass deep right to C.Davis pushed ob at MIA 35 for 21 yards (N.Needham).
After Miami’s missed field goal, Wilson hits a big-time throw to Davis that kickstarts the Jets’ fourth-quarter explosion. The velocity from the opposite hash, the anticipation to start the release before Davis breaks, the touch to get it over the underneath defender, the accuracy – beautiful stuff. Grade: 7.5
Wilson seems to be developing a lot of trust in his receivers. These anticipatory throws are becoming a regular occurrence on his film. To make throws like that, you have to trust that your receivers will win before you actually see them complete the win. Wilson always believes his receivers will win, and they continue to prove him right.
2nd & 9 – Qtr: 4, (10:13) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to Br.Hall to MIA 1 for 21 yards (D.Riley).
It’s clear that Wilson does not feel like he has to carry the team anymore. He trusts his guys to go make plays. Here, Wilson immediately notices that Hall is being covered by a linebacker who is lined up multiple yards to the inside of him, giving Hall a major advantage. So, Wilson doesn’t overthink it and just gives the ball to Hall.
It’s not the most ideal throw, but Hall snags it and rumbles upfield, coming within one yard of the score. Grade: 5.25
Zach Wilson is growing before our very eyes
It’s not quite reflected in his box-score stats just yet, but Zach Wilson truly is taking that second-year leap Jets fans hoped he would.
“Bucs Game Zach” is now the standard Zach. He is making reads quickly and decisively. He is throwing with anticipation. He is happy to take easy checkdowns. He trusts his receivers to win their routes and trusts his playmakers to make plays.
When the time comes for Zach to dial up the aggression and make big plays, he’s doing it. We saw it in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh and we saw it a couple of times in this game, particularly with the touchdown run and the attempted bomb to Conklin. Wilson is showing a much better feel for knowing when the time is right to try and make something big happen.
Wilson must continue to stockpile quality performances to prove that his second-year leap is for real. There is still a long way to go. For now, though, he is off to one heck of a start.