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Grading every Zach Wilson throw vs. Detroit Lions

Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Stats, Film, Highlights, Grades, Nania
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

What grade did NY Jets QB Zach Wilson earn against the Detroit Lions?

Zach Wilson is back. Our QB Grades series continues with Wilson’s eighth start of the 2022 season and 21st start of his NFL career.

The New York Jets suffered a crushing home loss at the hands of the Detroit Lions, 20-17. Wilson produced some scintillating highlights but was largely inconsistent. The Jets’ offense failed to exploit a low-ranked defense that was constantly stacking the box and playing single-high man coverage, openly inviting New York to beat them through the air.

How much blame does Wilson deserve for the loss? Did his peaks outweigh his valleys or vice versa?

The QB Grades series exists to answer questions like those.

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 independent of his surroundings. Box score statistics are usually misleading, as they do not account for a variety of factors that are crucial to consider when determining how well the quarterback performed on a given play. Even advanced metrics tend to overlook some important details.

If I had to choose one word to summarize the goal of this system, it would be this: contextualize.

I want to use the film to contextualize quarterback evaluation in a way that numbers cannot. The mission is to account for essential factors of quarterback play that can only be seen by combing through the footage of each 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 few basic examples that sum up what I’m looking for:

  • Decision-making/Field-reading (Did the QB choose the best available option or did he leave a better play on the field? Did he go through his progressions on time/correctly? Regardless of whether a ball is actually intercepted or not, did the QB put the ball in danger of being intercepted? These are just a few basic examples; all aspects of decision-making, field-reading, and processing are considered.)
  • Throw difficulty (Clean pocket or pressured? Wide open or tight window? Stationary or on the move? Short or deep? Same hash or opposite hash? Anticipatory or already open? The more difficult a throw is to execute, the more valuable it is.)
  • 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? Additionally, QBs deserve credit for throwing good passes that are dropped, whereas most stats will blame them for an incompletion.)
  • 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.)

Once again, the goal is to properly contextualize each situation. 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 (and exactly how good or how bad he did). Simply looking at the result of a play cannot give you these answers.

When we tirelessly analyze every play on film 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 game.

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 score and average negative score. An indicator of the combined ability to produce outstanding moments and avoid big mistakes.

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.

Zach Wilson’s grade vs. Detroit Lions

Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Zach Wilson’s performance against Detroit.

Everyone knows Wilson had some high highs and some low lows in this one. Which side of the spectrum weighed heavier? Or did they cancel each other out?

Time to find out.

  • Nania’s Overall Grade: 34.9 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Awful: <30)
  • Plays graded: 43
  • Neutral plays: 6
  • Positive plays: 19 (44.2%) – (Average: 56%, Phenomenal: >65%, Poor: <45%)
  • Negative plays: 18 (41.9%) – (Average: 28%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
  • Positive-negative ratio: 1.06 –  (Average: 2.00, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
  • Average positive: 6.48 – (Average: 5.90, High: 6.00+, Low: <5.80)
  • Average negative: 3.03 – (Average: 3.80, High: 4.00+, Low: <3.60)
  • Wow factor: 9.51 – (Average: 9.70, High: 10.00+, Low: <9.40)
  • 7+ plays: 6 (14.0%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
  • ≤3 plays: 11 (25.6%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
  • Box score stats: 18/35 for 317 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (9.1 Y/A, 89.8 passer rating). 4 sacks for 30 yards. 3 rushes for 7 yards.

This is the most boom-or-bust performance I have ever seen from a Jets quarterback. Wilson’s highs were very high and his lows were very low. Not only that, but the highs and lows made up an extraordinarily large portion of the performance. It felt like almost every other play was either a dazzling dime or an infuriating blunder.

While there was a lot of good and a lot of bad, the bad significantly outweighed the good.

Wilson did have a handful of awesome plays in this one. But for every awesome play, there were two killer mistakes. Ultimately, I thought Wilson’s mistakes hurt the Jets more than his highlights helped them.

I tallied 6 elite plays (7.0+ grade) for Wilson in this game, tying the Steelers game and last year’s Eagles game for the most I have ever tallied for him in one game. But I also had him with 11 terrible plays (3.0-or-worse grade), which is the most I have ever tallied for him in one game.

There were two common themes among Wilson’s lowlight plays: Inaccuracy on open throws and turnover-worthy plays.

Wilson’s accuracy was brutal. He missed a plethora of open throws in the short-to-intermediate range, specifically over the middle. The Jets’ receivers were dominating the Lions’ woeful secondary, creating separation at ease, but Wilson could not take advantage nearly as consistently as he should have. So much meat was left on the bone.

Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage (accounts for drops, throwaways, etc.) was 54.0%, ranking as the second-lowest mark of his career ahead of only the 50.0% mark he had in the Week 11 Patriots game.

The worst aspect of Wilson’s accuracy was how badly he was missing. Generally, he wasn’t missing by an inch or two, making it tough on the receiver but giving them a shot. Rather, he usually missed so badly that he gave the receiver no chance of making a play – missing high was a common theme. And most of these misses were on throws where the receiver had plenty of separation.

Wilson also got very lucky in the turnover department. The box score says he has one interception, but I counted four plays that were interception-worthy. And all of these were on the extreme side – throws where there was no excuse for putting the ball at risk.

This was a tale of two halves. Going into halftime, I thought Wilson was playing solidly overall. The first half was still boom-or-bust, but the boom was outweighing the bust. I had Wilson with a 63.9 grade going into the half.

After halftime, though, Wilson was disastrous. I had him with a 14.1 grade in the second half. The negative value of his second half outweighed the positive value of his first half.

You could see Wilson was a different quarterback from his very first play of the third quarter. He misfired on his first couple of throws in the third and then threw a baffling interception, and it was all downhill from there. Wilson’s third quarter was particularly egregious; I graded Wilson with seven negative plays and one positive play in the third quarter.

Wilson also made a bunch of mistakes on the Jets’ final drive of the game (though he partially made up for those mistakes with some great highlights).

This performance is my 15th-ranked game for Wilson out of his 21 appearances. It places fifth out of his eight games in 2022. Wilson’s season-long grade for the 2022 season has dropped to 39.1.

New York Jets, Zach Wilson Grade, Stats, Film

Zach Wilson’s film vs. Detroit Lions

Let’s take a look at some of the most notable plays from Wilson’s performance vs. Detroit.

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.

3rd & 11 – Qtr: 1, (6:16) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to D.Mims (J.Okudah).

Rough start to the game for Wilson on his first series. On his second pass of the game, Wilson throws the ball way behind Denzel Mims and puts it directly on the defender, who has the ball in his grasp for a moment before losing it. This is an interception-worthy pass. Grade: 2.0

2nd & 10 – Qtr: 1, (4:24) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to D.Mims to NYJ 44 for 13 yards (J.Okudah). NYJ-D.Mims was injured during the play. Penalty on DET-J.Cominsky, Defensive Offside, declined.

Wilson started cooking after that near-interception to Mims. Here, Wilson knows he has a free play due to the Lions jumping offside, so he finds his favorite one-on-one matchup and just slings it with no fear. Wilson puts a great ball on Mims for the first down.

2nd & 5 – Qtr: 2, (15:00) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right to G.Wilson to DET 40 for 33 yards (K.Joseph).

Awesome play from Wilson as he shows the magic that can come from his improvisational ability. Wilson escapes a collapsing pocket, sees Garrett Wilson finding a soft spot downfield, and takes a shot that makes sense. That’s the key here – this throw is open. Wilson will often toss these off-schedule throws downfield despite there not being a good window to throw into. Here, though, taking the shot is smart.

I love the placement. Zach feels the open space to the inside and leads Garrett into it, making the catch easier while also maximizing YAC.

Stellar. Grade: 9.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (14:16) Z.Wilson pass deep right to C.Uzomah for 40 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

The famous “Pro Day Throw” is finally unleashed. Wilson rolls out to his left, flips his hips, and hits C.J. Uzomah on the corner-post route. The placement isn’t necessarily perfect, as the ball hangs in the air and Uzomah has to wait on it. The defender gets a chance to make a play but whiffs. Still, this is a really tough throw to execute. Great play. Grade: 7.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (7:01) Z.Wilson pass deep left to E.Moore to NYJ 44 for 21 yards (J.Jacobs).

Tremendous route from Moore as he sells a post-corner and then sits it down, creating plenty of separation. Wilson hits him on time with an accurate throw for the big play. Grade: 6.0

3rd & 1 – Qtr: 2, (4:50) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson up the middle to DET 44 for 3 yards (J.Okudah; D.Elliott).

Nice run from Wilson on the read option. He sees the defensive end crashing down and smartly decides to keep it. Wilson then does a good job of selling outside before slicing upfield. Grade: 6.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (2:03) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right. PENALTY on NYJ-Z.Wilson, Intentional Grounding, 10 yards, enforced at DET 33.

This play begins a three-play sequence of mistakes for Wilson that cost the Jets some points.

Wilson keeps the ball on what looks like a run-pass option. He’s got Garrett wide open sitting in the middle of the field – which he most likely can see since he is looking in that direction as he reads the defensive end – but he either declines it or just plain misses it.

Wilson then looks to Moore in the flat, which is taken away by a blitzing defender. At this point, Wilson should just sail the ball out of bounds toward Moore, but Wilson gets flustered and holds onto the ball too long. He runs out of time and ends up flicking it away to avoid the sack, but he gets called for intentional grounding, which is essentially the same as a sack.

The process here should have been Garrett-Moore-throwaway. He’s got to hit Garrett here; it’s wide open. After that, if he is going to pass on the throw, he at least needs to get rid of the football safely. But he holds it too long and pays with a sack. Grade: 3.0

2nd & 20 – Qtr: 2, (2:00) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at 50 for -7 yards (R.Okwara).

Sitting on the edge of field goal range on second-and-20, you can’t take a sack. Wilson does it here. He tries to do too much, bailing from a clean pocket. Taking a sack is excusable when it cannot be avoided, but this one was avoidable.

In terms of the reads, I would have liked to see Wilson give more of a chance to the left side of the field. Wilson peeks left at the snap but immediately moves right and never comes back left; tucking and running once he doesn’t like what he sees on the right.

Jeff Smith eventually comes open on the dig from the left side, since the safety to his side dropped down and played the middle of the field. Wilson saw the safety drop at the snap. Seeing this, I would have liked for him to keep his eyes right for a second or two to pull the safety over there before flipping his eyes back left to hit Smith.

This would’ve been a great play by Wilson – it’s not like this is an easy opportunity he botched – but it was there to be made, especially considering the pass protection in this situation. It bought him enough time to read the whole field, but he only read one side before taking off.

The biggest sin here is the sack, though. Grade: 4.0

3rd & 27 – Qtr: 2, (1:14) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to T.Conklin.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the vision from Wilson here. He starts his read to the left but moves off it immediately. Why? Look at the cornerback opposite Jeff Smith. He immediately widens, leaving Smith wide open for a gain of at least 10 yards. Instead, Wilson moves to the right side of the field and attempts a shorter throw.

Then, Wilson misfires to a wide open Tyler Conklin. With an accurate throw here, Conklin could have picked up enough YAC for the Jets to consider a Greg The Leg field goal attempt. Instead, the Jets have to punt due to Wilson missing an easy throw.

Bad three-play sequence from Wilson here, capped off by a combination of shaky field vision and inaccuracy. Grade: 2.5

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (:25) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right to J.Smith to DET 31 for 50 yards (J.Okudah).

Wilson made up for his tumultuous sequence with a sharp three-play sequence to close the half. With 25 seconds left in the half, Wilson sees Smith in a one-on-one matchup with no safety help and takes the shot. Considering the coverage and the time on the clock, I like the decision. It’s a good spot to just take a chance.

The throw isn’t great. Smith has to stop and come back to it. The DB has a chance to undercut this for a deflection or interception, but luckily, the Lions’ cornerback does a terrible job, so Smith is able to make the catch anyway.

Not a special throw, but I like the decision here. Grade: 6.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (:16) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to J.Smith ran ob at DET 16 for 15 yards.

Wilson connects with Smith on the out route while taking a big hit. The Jets keep it moving, threatening to score a touchdown before the half ends. Grade: 6.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 2, (:12) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to J.Smith.

The Jeff Smith Show continues as Smith toasts Jeff Okudah for a third straight play and has him beat for a touchdown. Wilson throws the ball out in front of Smith with great touch and drops it right in the bread basket. This should be a touchdown. Unfortunately, Okudah yanks at Smith’s hips to prevent him from catching the ball. It looks like an obvious pass interference but the officials apparently thought otherwise. Excellent route and beautiful pass. Grade: 7.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (14:56) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to G.Wilson [J.Cominsky].

This review has leaned to the positive side so far, as Wilson’s first half was certainly solid. But now that we are heading into the second half, most of what we see will be negative from here on out.

Wilson starts the half with a miss to Garrett on a dig route with multiple yards of separation. The ball is placed too far out in front. I’ll cut Wilson some slack for George Fant being pushed into his grill, but he has enough time and space to deliver this throw accurately; or at least throw it respectably enough for Garrett to have a fighting chance.

The first of many misses to come. Grade: 4.0

3rd & 5 – Qtr: 3, (14:10) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to T.Conklin to NYJ 36 for 7 yards (D.Elliott).

Tyler Conklin makes an amazing catch to bail Wilson out for his inaccurate placement on third-and-5. This throw is high-and-behind but Conklin somehow secures it. Grade: 4.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (13:27) Z.Wilson pass deep left intended for E.Moore INTERCEPTED by J.Jacobs at DET 47. J.Jacobs ran ob at NYJ 15 for 38 yards (D.Brown).

First of all, Zach needs to hit Garrett here. Zach comes out of the play fake, looks left, and has a wide-open Garrett breaking toward the middle with plenty of room against soft coverage. Zach is looking at Garrett and considers the throw, but I think he gets spooked by the linebacker dropping to the middle. That shouldn’t be a deterrent. If this ball is out on-time, there is no way that linebacker is stopping a throw to Garrett. Throw it immediately. The hesitation here is what kills the window.

After declining Garrett, Zach looks outside to Moore on the slot wheel. Moore appears open initially, but with a defender underneath and another defender over the top, this window is far smaller than it appears. Maybe it could be squeezed to Moore if it is thrown on a line toward the sideline, leading Moore to settle in somewhere between the 50 and the Jets’ 45, but that’s about it.

The last thing that should be done here is to try and lead Moore downfield, and that’s exactly what Zach does. I’m not sure if he ever even registered that safety’s presence. It looks as if, once he declines Garrett and passes right, Zach sees Moore streaking past the underneath defender and just throws it ahead of him without ever accounting for the location of that safety. Wilson lobs a freebie interception for the safety.

The only reason I do not give Wilson a 0.0 here is because Moore does a terrible job of contesting the defender. He should have been able to break that up. Regardless, this is an atrocious play by Wilson. The Jets present Wilson with great pass protection and a wide-open receiver, and he produces an easy-to-catch interception. It is hard to fall further below the expectations of a play than that. Grade: 1.0

2nd & 17 – Qtr: 3, (10:47) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson scrambles right end pushed ob at NYJ 22 for 4 yards (D.Elliott).

You could see the interception lingering in Wilson’s mind on the next few plays that followed it. I think he is too gunshy on this play where he eventually scrambles.

Wilson’s first read is Moore, who is in a visibly favorable position. Moore is running a one-on-one out route with no other defenders in the area to help. Almost immediately after the ball was snapped, it becomes obvious Moore is going to be open at the top of the route; the battle is over as soon as that corner opens his hips. Wilson gives Moore a good long look, but he declines it as the pressure starts bearing down. This could definitely be completed if thrown with anticipation.

If Zach wants to get the ball out quickly in the face of the pressure, he has Garrett in a favorable one-on-one underneath, running a whip route. Pass on Moore, come back down to Garrett, and lead him outside. Give him the ball and let him try to make a play.

Instead, Wilson bails and runs for only four yards on second-and-13. It’s not a terrible play, but I think there were better options left on the field.

Additionally, Conklin was open up the seam in a one-on-one. Conklin beats his man vertically and there is a window to lead him downfield since the safety in that area dropped to the middle of the field, away from Conklin’s trajectory. Wilson never checks this route. He could have just side-stepped the biltzer, remaining in the pocket so he could scan all of his reads, but he bails when it isn’t totally necessary.

Again, this isn’t a terrible play, but I think the average quarterback gets more than four yards out of this rep considering the available options. Grade: 4.0

2nd & 10 – Qtr: 3, (6:29) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to B.Berrios.

I cut Wilson a little bit of slack for this one since it is an awkward angle and he is also under pressure, but it’s always a no-no to bounce uncontested screen passes. Grade: 3.5

3rd & 10 – Qtr: 3, (6:23) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to Mi.Carter to NYJ 36 for 16 yards (D.Elliott) [A.Anzalone].

Yikes. This should have been interception No. 2, but Michael Carter makes an outstanding catch to bail Wilson out.

Firstly, check out Jeff Smith, slot-right. He runs a deep post and is open. Wilson should be able to see this opening up pre-snap. Just before the snap, Smith’s man starts backing off. Post-snap, the single-high safety creeps down, leaving the middle of the field open. Smith is now in a one-on-one with a huge cushion and plenty of room to operate toward the middle.

Post-snap, Wilson appears to be looking down the middle almost the entire way. Why he does not take the shot to Smith on third-and-10, I have no idea.

The Jets block up this six-man blitz quite well, but Wilson holds the ball too long and the pressure inevitably arrives. Once it does, it’s time for Wilson to just throw the ball away. It would even be fine if he ate the sack, considering it’s third-and-long. What you do not want to do is lob a grenade into no-man’s land with no rhyme or reason. That is exactly what Wilson does, and this should be a pick. Wilson owes Carter dinner for this one.

It does look like the ball starts slipping out of Wilson’s hands as he winds up, which leads to this ball looking as ugly as it does. I’ll give him a tiny bit of slack for that. Still, even if the ball did not slip, where was this going? What was the plan?

Egregious. Yet, the box score says he threw a 16-yard completion. Grade: 1.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 3, (3:36) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to B.Berrios.

Braxton Berrios continues to struggle. Wilson finally breaks out of his slump with a good ball, squeezing it between two linebackers out of an RPO, but Berrios lets it sail through his hands. I side with Wilson here. Good throw. Grade: 6.0

3rd & 12 – Qtr: 3, (2:48) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson.

Zach gets really lucky on this one. Not only does he put the ball too far out in front of an open Garrett on another in-breaker, but this ball travels straight down the hashes and goes directly to the spot where the free safety is standing for the majority of the play. Luckily, the safety’s eyes are glued to Garrett rather than the ball, so he is oblivious to the ball coming at him and moves at the last second. After it whizzes by, you can see his shock and disappointment at the opportunity he just missed.

Another uncatchable miss to an open receiver, and this time, it was also an interception-worthy miss. This should have been picked off. Grade: 2.0

3rd & 5 – Qtr: 4, (14:04) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to E.Moore.

Another open throw over the middle missed by Wilson. On third-and-5, Moore is open over the middle for a first down, and Wilson overshoots yet again. Yes, it is a congested pocket, so this is not the easiest throw, but Wilson is still relatively undeterred as he releases the ball. Stand tall and deliver the ball accurately to an open receiver to move the chains.

As we have been discussing, it is the severity of the inaccuracy that is particularly troubling. Most of these throws are nowhere near the target. At least give your guy a shot to make a special catch. You can’t miss this badly to open receivers as often as Wilson does.

The pressure here makes it tough for Wilson to deliver a perfect throw to Moore, but on a five-yard drag with two yards of separation from the defender, it is inexcusable to completely miss the target.

A receiver is open for a first down and it is canceled out by Wilson’s inaccuracy once again. Grade: 3.0

2nd & 8 – Qtr: 4, (7:15) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right to G.Wilson to DET 21 for 33 yards (W.Harris). Penalty on DET-W.Harris, Defensive Pass Interference, declined.

Zach finally broke out of his slump with this bomb to Garrett.

I think this is a solid play, but I’m not over the moon about it. This is a 50-50 ball in which the defender does a terrible job. As Zach releases this, it does not look like a throw you would advise him to attempt. Garrett’s defender is in a great position; inside and over the top. Plus, Zach is just hastily flicking this ball up while under pressure and outside of the pocket. The end result masks a decision that looks very ill-advised if you pause the clip as Zach starts winding up.

Luckily, the cornerback on Garrett does a terrible job playing the ball, and Garrett makes a wonderful catch. The defender was in a perfect spot to deflect or intercept this ball if he did not fall down.

I’m not sure there is anything great about Zach’s decision-making or ball placement here. It’s a shot in the dark that happens to work out. I will give him some minor credit for trusting his guy to make a play and placing the ball in a decent spot for Garrett to have a shot at winning the 50-50, but this is not a special play by Zach in my opinion. Grade: 5.5

1st & 10 – Qtr: 4, (1:49) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 16 for -9 yards (R.Okwara).

The final eight plays in this review all come from the Jets’ final drive of the game. New York attempted to either tie or win the game while trailing 20-17 with under two minutes remaining. This was a wildly volatile drive from Wilson, featuring a mix of amazing clutch throws and back-breaking mistakes.

Here, on the first play of the drive, Wilson has to find a way to avoid this sack. Sacks are nearly unacceptable on these types of drives. However you do it, you have to find a way to avoid sacks in these situations unless it is a completely unavoidable situation.

Considering the terrible protection from Nate Herbig here, I do not expect Wilson to complete a pass on this play, but he has to throw the ball away. After dodging Herbig’s pressure, he should just sail the ball over Moore’s head or look over the middle and throw the ball at Garrett’s feet. Instead, Zach goes into playmaker mode after dodging the initial pressure, trying to get outside of the pocket, and it costs him. Grade: 4.0

2nd & 17 – Qtr: 4, (1:28) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to B.Berrios [J.Houston].

I would argue this is the biggest play of the final drive. On second-and-17 following Wilson’s sack to start the drive, Berrios wins on a deep post and is open for a massive gain; possibly a touchdown if thrown in-stride. (Although, who knows if Berrios would even catch it.) Wilson has a pretty good pocket but airmails Berrios.

Not the easiest throw in world history, but an enormous missed opportunity. If Wilson hits this, the Jets would have been in a tremendous spot. Instead, this miss put the Jets in rough waters for the rest of the way. Grade: 3.0

3rd & 17 – Qtr: 4, (1:22) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right to G.Wilson to NYJ 38 for 22 yards (J.Okudah).

Zach makes up for his prior two mistakes with a needle-threader on third down. Clutch throw to Garrett against very tight coverage. Fantastic way for Zach to bounce back and keep the Jets moving. This is a big-time play. Grade: 7.0

2nd & 10 – Qtr: 4, (:53) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to G.Wilson to NYJ 48 for 10 yards (J.Jacobs) [J.Houston].

Zach was pressured and threw the ball away on first down. On second down, he comes back with another laser. While taking a huge hit, Zach hangs in there and launches an anticipatory strike to Garrett that is placed in the perfect spot against tight coverage. Outstanding poise, outstanding anticipation, and outstanding ball placement. Grade: 9.0

1st & 10 – Qtr: 4, (:31) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to B.Berrios.

Robert Saleh did a terrible job of managing the clock after the previous completion, as he elected not to call a timeout. The Jets hurried up to the line and ran a play. Wilson chucks a deep bomb to Berrios that never has a real shot.

But check out Elijah Moore slot-right. He wins over the middle on his dig route here. This is where Wilson should have gone.

Wilson is reading the middle of the field for most of this play before turning right and firing to Berrios. While reading middle, he should see that Garrett is bracketed by two defenders who each stay with him as he comes inside. The outside cornerback follows him inside while the safety drops down, turns his hips toward Garrett, and focuses his eyes on him. This leaves Moore open in the one-on-one matchup, as there is no help within the trajectory of Moore’s route to deter the throw.

Being initially skeptical of Moore’s openness makes sense. If the outside cornerback near Garrett stays home or the safety robs over the middle, then Moore is not an option. But neither happens. It is quickly apparent that the outside defender has his eyes glued to Garrett and is following him inside, while the safety turns his eyes and hips toward Garrett to match him. Seeing these things, Zach should have turned his attention to Moore and hit him on the dig.

Finally, throwing to Berrios makes little sense here. He’s double-covered. Luckily, Wilson throws this far enough to get it past the safety, because the safety had a much better chance of catching this ball than Berrios did.

Another big missed opportunity. Moore is open and has to be the target here. Grade: 3.0

2nd & 10 – Qtr: 4, (:25) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 40 for -8 yards (J.Cominsky).

The sack at the start of this drive was one thing, but getting sacked at this juncture is another. Knocking on the door of field goal range with 25 seconds left and facing second-and-10, a sack is close to a death sentence. Wilson takes one here.

Just like the earlier sack, I am not saying Wilson should complete a pass here. There isn’t much of anything open. But the ball needs to be thrown away. Once he feels pressure, the first instinct should be to get rid of the ball.

Instead, when Wilson feels the pressure here, he starts bouncing around trying to make something happen. You just can’t afford to do that in this situation. The protection here isn’t great, but it’s not necessarily sack-worthy. Wilson has ample time to locate a receiver and throw it at his feet. He fails to do so, burying the Jets in a deep hole. Grade: 3.0

3rd & 18 – Qtr: 4, (:19) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to E.Moore.

Elijah Moore is open over the middle and Wilson again airmails him, this time from a pretty clean pocket. With a good throw, Moore easily gets enough YAC to put the Jets in field goal range.

Way too much of this. Grade: 3.0

4th & 18 – Qtr: 4, (:14) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep left to E.Moore to DET 40 for 20 yards (K.Joseph).

It’s primarily Wilson’s fault the Jets are in this hopeless fourth-and-18 situation with 14 seconds left, but give him credit where it’s due. This is a downright amazing play to make up for his previous errors and give the Jets one last shot.

Wilson sees nothing open, feels the edge pressure coming, and breaks the pocket to buy time for his receivers to get open. On his way outside, a defender appears to grab his hand, but Wilson breaks free. He then stays afoot as the defender dives at his legs and nearly takes him down.

Wilson locates Moore coming back toward the middle of the field. Wilson plants himself in the face of incoming pressure and throws across the field, dropping the ball in a perfect spot for Moore. The Jets get a chance to tie the game thanks to Wilson’s wizardry.

This might be the best play of Wilson’s career. While it is not enough to erase all of the struggles that preceded it (both on this drive and throughout the game), seeing him make a play of this caliber at the biggest moment of the game certainly makes his overall performance appear somewhat more respectable. Tremendous stuff. Grade: 10.0

Zach Wilson remains a liability for the Jets

This game was the quintessential Zach Wilson experience: in ways both good and bad. Unfortunately, Wilson’s good and bad do not weigh equally at the moment. The bad greatly overshadows the good.

Wilson’s performance against Detroit made it clear that his problems cannot be fixed with a three-game stint on the bench. It will take at least one full offseason of repetition to repair the mechanical issues that cause his chronic inaccuracy. It might take even longer to fix the yips and stage fright that cause him to make baffling decisions and miss layups – if it’s even possible for those things to be fixed.

On the positive side, this game provided arguably the largest collection of flashy moments we have ever seen from Wilson in a single game. The improvisation, arm strength, mobility, and gun-slinging mentality were all on display. If you looked only at Wilson’s good plays in this game you would fully understand why he was a No. 2 pick.

And this is a promising development. Wilson had not been flashing much this season. Outside of the second half in Pittsburgh and the first half against New England at MetLife, Wilson has been stagnant, rarely producing those magical moments that remind you why his ceiling is considered to be so high. It’s nice to see him have a game where you could at least point to the flashes of potential as reasons to believe in him, even if the overall performance remained poor.

Mike White’s injury will pave the way for Wilson to get a second consecutive start on Thursday night against Jacksonville. This could be his final chance to make an impression on the Jets before the offseason. If he wants to end off on a high note, he must be substantially more accurate on underneath throws (especially over the middle), minimize the interception-worthy throws, be more decisive when making his reads, and absorb fewer sacks.

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Jim G
1 year ago

This is my first time reading your play-by-play analysis. I think you did an excellent job. I do, however, think you are too hard on Zach on the final drive about taking sacks. I don’t think he “took” any sacks, they were forced on him. As the QB on a game-deciding drive, he needed to make big plays and that is what he tried to do.

What your analysis convinced me of is that Zach is much more of a development project than anyone anticipated. To be candid, many of his throws in the Detroit game were “Tebowesque.”

Related to the previous point, your analysis convinced me that it was an error to play Zach in 2021. When I think back to 2018 draft, four QBs started right away and only Lamar Jackson sat (albeit for 2/3 of the season). Josh Allen and Lamar both progressed substantially, the other draft picks, not so much. I understand the mindset that Zach Wilson could learn by playing and learn from his mistakes, but I don’t think that has happened. As one poster noted, Brady, Brees, Rivers, Eli Manning, Mahomes, etc. sat for a season (or in Eli’s case, part of a season) and it didn’t hurt them. Rodgers sat for 3 seasons, didn’t seem to hurt him.

Another sobering observation: after nearly 2 seasons in the same offense, I have seen Mike White develop much faster than Zach Wilson. I don’t know if that is because the offense is more suited to Mike White’s skills or if Mike White has better skills to be a solid QB on a consistent basis.

I don’t believe Zach Wilson should be traded. Someone will trade for him, but I doubt anyone would give a first or second round pick for what any coaching staff can identify as a developmental project. Zach’s contract is team friendly so I would keep him and not play him until he “earns” his way onto the field.

A final thought: I saw an interview with Trent Dilfer years ago. He said in practice, in film study, the whole game and game plan made sense. In gametime, it all looked completely different. Maybe Zach Wilson is that type of QB: in practice, when there is no pressure, he makes it look easy; in film study and in meetings, it all makes sense; once game action starts, all hell breaks loose and his tendency to improvise takes over.

1 year ago

These throw-by-throw assessments are great, particularly when they back up what I was thinking during the game. (Har har.)

I’d take a limited but competent QB any day over one who flashes brilliance between so many boneheaded plays. Chad didn’t have such a great arm or great mobility, and he was usually fun to watch. Zach is never fun to watch because it’s always a nail-biter.

1 year ago

I would say Wilson’s issues are less mechanical and more mental. A lack of confidence, which causes him to hesitate, panic, get down on himself and cause his mechanics to break down. When he is able to relax and just play his mechanics suddenly become better as does hi accuracy, decision making and everything. We saw this all last year and we saw t progressively get worse this year as he played worse. I don’t know how you can fix the mental part. Playing QB is al about dealing with pressure and the mental aspect. Doing it in NY is even harder.

I think this why we often see young QBs regress in their second year. The pressure. Geno finished strong his 1st year and had a good 1st couple of games to his second year then he progressively fell apart. One of the refreshing things about Geno’s rookie year was seeing him throw the ball away so often to avoid sacks something we never saw Sanchez do. But, in year two we saw Geno stop throwing the balla way maybe the pressure of needing to put up stats. The same with Darnold in year 2. In Wilson’s year 2 we hear him complaining about throwing the ball away. There is much more pressure to put up stats in year 2, especially in NY, which often IMO helps push the young QB into a downward slide and worse year than their rookie year. Zacj Wilson was a lot lot better in year one the last 7 games than he has been this year. Nani’s QB grades provides evidence of that as does the eye test. IMO fixing the mental side is a bad bet and the Jets and JD need to trade Zach and move on this off-season. Both the Jets and Zach will be better off with him playing elsewhere.

1 year ago
Reply to  Noam

I agree with almost everything you said except to move on from Zach this off-season. The last thing we need is for Wilson to look like someone’s “Mike White” in his 5th season. I agree mentally he’s not seeing the field, which probably stems from his lack of experience playing the position in college, and that experience was against much softer talent than NFL players.

There is a mechanical issue with his base being to wide which causes a lot of “arm” throws that are easily misfires. I look at it this way: Zach will need more time than someone like Lawrence because he didn’t have the same college experience, and as you pointed out everybody expects the “second year leap” which has basically become a cliche. What I saw on Sunday was a young QB loaded with talent who’s got so much going on in his head that he can’t put it together. Oh, and the atrocious OL play does nothing to help slow things down for him.

White seems to be a starting QB that can win in the NFL and bring this current Jets’ offense what they need. He should be playing. Zach, will need to beat him out if he wants to play and I see nothing wrong with that type of competition. Brees, Brady, Rogers, all sat before they got to the field, they would have given up on Steve Young after his second year by today’s standards too. Other guys like Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner, Chad Pennington and heck even Vinny Testaverde didn’t figure it out in two seasons. I’m not saying Zach is as good or will be as good as any of those guys, what I’m saying it there is nothing wrong with playing White as the “bridge QB” who can win games, and give Zach some time to develop. If White is “that guy” or “him” as it is said in today’s world then boom it’s a win, if Zach beats him out and lives up to his potential also a win.

The truth is, I don’t think there is a better option for this team, and I like the idea of building the QB position the old fashioned way. Let him earn it.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jets71

71…this is where I am as well. Wilson has too much physical talent to cast aside after 2 years. The unexpected benefit is them realizing that in White they have someone with starter ability (something they probably were not expecting). I believe they will have to ‘bite the bullet’ and tag White to avoid losing him and basically give Zach one more year to figure it out. The alternative is bringing someone in from the outside (at a way higher price tag over multiple years) and basically try to unload Zach after year 3, because you have committed financially to someone else. The tag on White (while expensive) is still a prove it deal for both White and Zach for 2023.