What grade did NY Jets QB Zach Wilson earn against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The New York Jets were embarrassed on national television by the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending their losing streak to four games as they fell by a score of 19-3 in their own building. Wilson struggled mightily and was benched for the second time in five weeks.
While Wilson was bad, the rest of the Jets’ offense was clearly struggling, too. How much blame does Wilson deserve for the Jets’ hapless offensive performance? Were the Jets wrong to scapegoat Wilson or was he truly bad enough to deserve the benching?
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 ways that statistics 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. Jacksonville Jaguars
Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Zach Wilson’s performance against Jacksonville.
It was clear that Wilson did not have his best game. But exactly how bad was he? Was this a middling performance made to look worse than it actually was due to poor support? Or was Wilson as bad as he looked?
Time to find out.
- Nania’s Overall Grade: 11.9 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Awful: <30)
- Plays graded: 22
- Neutral plays: 5
- Positive plays: 7 (31.8%) – (Average: 56%, Phenomenal: >65%, Poor: <45%)
- Negative plays: 10 (45.5%) – (Average: 28%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 0.70 – (Average: 2.00, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 5.38 – (Average: 5.90, High: 6.00+, Low: <5.80)
- Average negative: 3.55 – (Average: 3.80, High: 4.00+, Low: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 8.93 – (Average: 9.70, High: 10.00+, Low: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 0 (0.0%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 3 (13.6%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
- Box score stats: 9/18 for 92 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT (5.1 Y/A, 41.9 passer rating). 3 sacks for 21 yards. 1 rush for 1 yard.
This was another disastrous game from Zach Wilson. While the Jets did not do a great job of supporting their QB, Wilson consistently exacerbated bad situations rather than mitigating them, and there was not a single instance where he did something special to overcome a bad situation. In the situations where the Jets actually did set him up with a high chance of success, he usually botched it.
This performance is my 21st-ranked game for Wilson out of his 22 appearances. It places eighth out of his nine games in 2022. Wilson’s season-long grade for the 2022 season has dropped to 37.1, over ten points lower than his rookie-year grade of 47.6.
Zach Wilson’s film vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Let’s take a look at some of the most notable plays from Wilson’s performance vs. Jacksonville.
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 – (13:36) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson right guard to JAX 15 for 1 yard (D.Hamilton; D.Lloyd).
Wilson’s first few plays of this game were pretty boring, but I figured I’d include them since they are a key part of the story. There were definitely some hopeless reps for Wilson where there wasn’t much he could do. It was a team-wide debacle for the Jets’ offense; Wilson was not the only culprit.
The Jets give Wilson a read-option here. Wilson reads the edge defender and sees him crash inside, following the RB, so Wilson correctly decides to keep the ball. Unfortunately, the LB reads the play well and is there to stop Wilson for a short gain. I gave Wilson a tiny positive grade here for making a fine decision. Grade: 5.125
3rd & 5 – (12:18) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson sacked at JAX 19 for -8 yards (A.Cisco).
It’s hard to know who is at fault for this sack without being in the huddle. It could be Wilson. It could be George Fant. It could be Mike LaFleur. Who knows. Since I felt it would be far too subjective to pin blame on this sack, I just pegged it as a neutral play. There is nobody open for Wilson to throw to and then he gets sacked by an unblocked rusher. Grade: 5.0
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1st & 10 – (7:15) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short left.
Jets fans started booing after this play for some strange reason. I don’t know what they wanted to see from Wilson here. This is a good play on the QB’s part. The screen is busted so Wilson eliminates any risk and just throws the ball away. Wilson would give fans a reason to boo on a similar play later in the game, but he was just doing his job here. Grade: 5.25
3rd & 7 – (6:31) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short right to T.Conklin pushed ob at JAX 45 for 27 yards (R.Jenkins; F.Oluokun).
LaFleur cooks up a wide-open Tyler Conklin completion using a rub from Elijah Moore against Cover 2 Man, while the Jets’ offensive line does a great job in protection. It’s as easy of a third-and-7 conversion as a QB can ask for, and Wilson gets the job done. This is nothing special on the QB’s part, but he deserves a little bit of credit for executing. Grade: 5.25
2nd & 12 – Qtr: 1, (4:59) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson.
This is where things started going downhill. It was a bench-worthy performance from this point forward.
We will see plenty of plays in this game where other parties can share some of the blame for a bad result, but there were still some plays that can be blamed solely on Zach, and this is one of them. Garrett Wilson is open on the first read and the pocket is protected. But Zach yanks the ball and puts it way too far out in front, in a spot where Garrett is unable to even touch it. Not only that, but Zach misses in the direction of the defender, putting the ball in danger of being intercepted.
If Zach missed this throw short, I could see the argument that maybe this was a miscommunication and Garrett ran the route too far. But Zach missed it long. I find it hard to believe that Garrett was expected to run his route straight into the defender and box him out for a fade route on second-and-12 at midfield. The location of this pass makes it pretty clear to me that Zach just flat-out missed a layup.
Nobody to blame but the QB here. Grade: 3.0
3rd & 12 – (4:56) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right. Penalty on NYJ-E.Moore, Offensive Pass Interference, declined.
I think Wilson bails too early. There is some pressure, but if he hangs tough in the pocket, he has enough time to stand in there and target Corey Davis over the middle for a shot at the first down. Davis is tightly covered, but the window is open since he wins inside leverage off the line of scrimmage. There is also no traffic in the middle of the field that muddies the throwing lane; it’s an isolated one-on-one with plenty of space. With an accurate, anticipatory throw into Davis’s chest, this can be a first down.
Instead, Wilson digs himself into an even deeper hole by scrambling into more pressure, forcing himself to throw the ball away.
This is a good example of Wilson’s fear in the pocket. He is unwilling to stand tall and make throws under duress. As soon as he sees pressure, he bails. This causes him to miss far more opportunities than he creates. Grade: 4.0
1st & 10 – (11:21) Z.Wilson pass short left to G.Wilson to NYJ 46 for 13 yards (K.Chaisson).
I like this decision by Zach on the rollout. The deep option to Conklin looks enticing initially, but with the safety sitting over top and closing in quickly, that would be a much tougher throw than it looks. So, Zach passes on Conklin and takes the easy throw underneath to Garrett. Smart play. Take what the defense gives you. Grade: 5.5
1st & 15 – (10:14) Z.Wilson pass short left to Z.Knight pushed ob at JAX 44 for 15 yards (D.Lloyd).
Two plays later, Wilson does another good job of taking the safe throw. He reads deep, realizes nothing is open, and locates his checkdown. This time, Wilson actually does do a nice job of standing tough against the pressure, as he places an accurate ball to the wide-open Zonovan Knight.
Good poise and good field-reading – two things we do not see enough of from Wilson. Grade: 5.75
2nd & 21 – (8:33) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to C.Davis (D.Williams).
First off, Nate Herbig (RG) has a terrible rep in pass protection here. Wilson does a good job of recognizing it, evading the pressure, and extending the play. So, everything that happens next is somewhat of a bonus since many QBs may have already been sacked.
But Wilson simply cannot do what he does next.
After scrambling, Wilson sees Davis open on a deep post and takes the shot. Here’s the problem: It’s much too late to target that throw.
When Wilson releases the ball, Davis is already about 34 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and 45 yards beyond the point Wilson is throwing from. For Wilson to complete this in-stride without it being a jump ball, it would have to be a perfect 70-yard rope into the end zone. That’s a tough throw to make in perfect conditions with a T-shirt and shorts. Trying to pull it off in rainy and windy weather while scrambling and not being able to set yourself is recklessly overconfident.
Wilson launches this ball 54 yards in the air from the point he releases it, which is plenty of distance. Yet, it still ends up being a hot-air balloon that hangs in the air and allows two defenders to contest it, forcing Davis to break up an interception. That’s how difficult of a throw this was. It had no business being attempted.
Unfortunately, Herbig ruined this play. If the protection held up, Wilson would have had a great chance to complete this deep shot to Davis within the rhythm/timing of the play. But once Wilson was forced to scramble, he should have eliminated Davis as an option. The window had closed at that point.
Also, it’s second-and-21. If Wilson heaved this throw on third-and-21, I could justify it as a “punt interception” where you either complete a bomb or essentially punt the ball. But you can’t risk throwing a drive away on second down.
Wilson has other options, too. After scrambling, Wilson has Conklin open to his right and Elijah Moore open over the middle. Either of these throws could have set up a manageable third down. Instead, Wilson tries a nearly impossible throw.
Great work by Davis preventing this interception. Reckless decision-making by Wilson. It is an example of him exacerbating a bad situation. Yes, the offensive line ruined the upside of the play, but the QB made the situation even worse when he didn’t have to. Grade: 3.0
1st & 10 – (2:55) Z.Wilson sacked at NYJ 17 for -8 yards (R.Robertson-Harris).
Puzzling sack from Wilson here. Once he comes out of the play fake, he has about a good second-and-a-half to process everything – that he has nothing open and the pressure is bearing down on him with a heavy overload from the right (leaving the left side of the pocket wide open). But he just stands there and takes the sack.
Wilson even starts to wind up before pulling the ball back in; I am not sure what he sees to even consider throwing the ball. There is a defender sitting underneath Garrett’s out route. It’s not open.
I would have liked to see Wilson do one of two things: i) Just go through with the windup and chuck it out of bounds or into the dirt, or ii) slide left into the open space and either try to scramble or just throw the ball away.
Wilson was too indecisive here with the pressure bearing down. A quicker decision needed to be made. His process should have been to recognize the play was hopeless (both due to the downfield coverage and the incoming pressure) and follow up by either throwing the ball away or moving into the open space. Standing still and hesitating with the football is not a good reaction in this situation.
Obviously, much of the blame for this play’s failure goes to i) LaFleur for failing to get someone open and ii) the protection for breaking down so quickly despite having eight blockers. So, this is far from an egregious play by Wilson. It’s not like he wasted a good opportunity here. Nothing was available.
Still, this feels like a sack that should have been avoided by the QB, in my opinion. Grade: 4.0
2nd & 18 – (2:11) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to G.Wilson (R.Robertson-Harris).
Contrary to the early screen play that Jets fans booed on, this is a screen play I think Wilson actually deserves to be knocked for. This ball has to be thrown away.
Yes, I know it’s a designed screen and he is just going through with the rhythm of the play, and this should have been blocked and/or designed better to prevent such quick pressure. But this play is clearly busted from the get-go and Roy Robertson-Harris is directly in the throwing lane. Wilson throws it right into his hands. How does Wilson think this ball is getting through? The Jets are lucky this was not intercepted.
Got to toss this one in the dirt. I can’t help but wonder if the boos from the previous botched screen play prompted Wilson to try and force this one rather than admitting defeat. Grade: 4.0
2nd & 3 – (:15) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short left to T.Conklin to NYJ 40 for -1 yards (T.Herndon).
There are 15 seconds on the clock in the second quarter, and the Jets are trying to get themselves in range for a field goal attempt. They have two timeouts remaining.
This is bad clock management from Wilson. The Jets end up burning 5 seconds of clock and a timeout for a pass that results in a one-yard loss.
There are a couple of things Wilson could have done better here. Firstly, Michael Carter has a better opportunity to gain yardage on the other side of the field. He is open earlier, has more separation from the defense, and is a better player with the ball in his hands than Conklin. I would have preferred for Wilson to look for Carter instead of Conklin.
Secondly, as it pertains to Conklin, Wilson waits too long to get him the ball. Wilson is looking Conklin’s way the entire time but doesn’t start winding up until long after Conklin has already turned his head around. This long delay buys time for the defense to close in and prevent Conklin from gaining significant yardage. Wilson had an opportunity to get this ball out to Conklin much quicker, which would have saved time and given Conklin a better chance to gain yards, but he hesitates and it proves costly.
It’s not a good pass, either. Wilson forces Conklin to come back to it, costing him yards. Wilson also doesn’t lead Conklin toward the sideline, which keeps Conklin in-bounds and costs the Jets a timeout.
Sneaky bad play from Wilson here. Grade: 3.5
3rd & 4 – (:10) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to C.Davis.
This is Wilson’s worst play of the game. Despite Wilson’s mismanagement of the clock on the previous play, the Jets’ offensive supporting cast cooked up a golden opportunity for Wilson to put the Jets in field goal range on the next play. Wilson botched it.
The protection is fantastic. Davis is wide open on the dig. All Wilson has to do is hit the throw. And he doesn’t even come close.
Once again, you can’t blame anyone but the quarterback here. It’s an egregious miss that costs the Jets a chance at some points. Grade: 2.0
4th & 9 – (:05) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass deep right INTERCEPTED by D.Lloyd at JAX 25. D.Lloyd to JAX 44 for 19 yards. Lateral to A.Cisco to JAX 48 for 4 yards (G.Wilson).
On the Jets’ final play of the half, Wilson throws up a prayer and gets picked off.
I know there are zeros on the clock and Wilson figures he might as well take a shot, but he is throwing this from his own 25. While the kid has one heck of an arm, I don’t think he is throwing the ball 75 yards to the end zone in the rain and wind with a defender in his face and without taking multiple hops into the throw. Unsurprisingly, the ball settles in 25 yards shy of the end zone.
Not only is it nearly impossible for Wilson to get this to the end zone, but he is throwing into a crowd with 5 defenders against 3 receivers. The interception likelihood is fairly high. Sure, it’s the last play of the half, but when the ball goes into the hands of the other team, you never know what could happen.
There is no upside to attempting this pass. Personally, I would have preferred for Wilson to throw it away and just save the risk of any injuries or turnovers. Instead we get an interception that very well could have been returned the distance if somebody on Jacksonville actually tried to block Garrett Wilson. The road ahead looked promising if Andre Cisco got past Wilson.
It’s not an egregious blunder. I get what he’s doing. And as far as interceptions go, this is, quite obviously, on the less-costly side. But the risk outweighed the reward here, simply because there was zero potential reward at all. Grade: 4.0
(13:43) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to C.Davis.
First, Wilson does a good job of evading pressure up the middle as Connor McGovern gets bull-rushed into him. After that, though, Wilson misses an open conversion opportunity on third-and-1. Corey Davis creates a ton of separation on the dig route, but Wilson misses far behind Davis, giving him no chance of making the catch.
That is the biggest issue with Wilson’s accuracy. When he misses, he misses badly. His receivers have zero chance of catching these passes. If you’re going to miss, it would be preferable to at least give your receiver a chance at making a tough catch, but Wilson can’t even do that.
I won’t crush Wilson for this one due to the initial pressure. Still, he has to make this throw after evading the pressure and keeping the play alive. Grade: 4.0
3rd & 1 – (13:43) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short middle to C.Davis.
I hadn’t noticed this prior to posting my review of Wilson’s Detroit game, but I’ll give credit to J.T. O’Sullivan for pointing this out when he watched that game. Over these last two games, the Jets occasionally created some designed scrambling opportunities for Wilson by having George Fant intentionally allow his man to win inside, allowing Wilson to get out of the pocket. Watch here as Fant oversets outside and invites his man to come inside. Simultaneously, watch how quickly Wilson starts moving outside. This is all designed.
In terms of the route in relation to Wilson’s position, this looks similar to the C.J. Uzomah touchdown Wilson threw last week. It’s a post route thrown from one side of the field to the other, a tough throw akin to Wilson’s famous pro day throw at BYU.
Garrett Wilson successfully beats his defenders on the post route. The outside cornerback stays home to cover Elijah Moore’s out route and tries to pass Wilson off to the safety, but the safety completely botches it.
For Zach, I think this ball needed to be out earlier. As soon as Garrett breaks in and the safety’s hips are turned outside, the window opens. That’s where the ball should be out. Zach takes a bit too long to get this out, and it invites the other cornerback into the play, making it a contested pass. The cornerback on the other side of the field shows some tremendous recognition. He doesn’t allow himself to get sucked into the traffic in the middle of the field, sees Garrett coming open, and drops deep to pick him up.
Zach could have gotten this out earlier if he planted himself and reset his footwork as soon as he got out of the pocket. He has all the space in the world after he leaves the pocket and can easily reset his base. This way, he would be prepared to pull the trigger as soon as he saw a throw he liked. Instead, because Zach continues running, he has to smash the brakes and reset himself once he sees Garrett open. Rather than releasing the ball when he sees the opening, he starts setting himself when he sees the opening. This elongated process is what causes Zach to be late on the throw.
I also think the placement could have been better. Seeing the opposite-side cornerback dropping back into the lane of the post route, I would have liked Zach to adjust the placement and try to lead Garrett down the hashes rather than toward the other sideline. Zach’s placement allowed this to be a jump ball that could have been picked. If he led Garrett vertically down the hashes, Garrett could have improvised and strayed away from the cornerback for a more in-stride catch.
This is a tough play for Zach, but it’s a missed opportunity nonetheless. LaFleur schemes up a window for a huge bomb and Zach fails to take advantage. Grade: 4.0
Zach Wilson is a project
Zach Wilson is nowhere near a starter-quality NFL quarterback at this point in time. Every member of the Jets organization should be on their hands and knees thanking the football gods for allowing Mike White to play this week.
The most important thing that needs to be said about Wilson is that his mental state is very far off from the requisite level for a starting quarterback in the NFL. You cannot play quarterback in this league when your mind is as frenzied as Wilson’s is right now. He is afraid, panicked, hesitant, and indecisive. All of this is clear as day when watching his film.
Can Wilson ever reach the proper mental state to become a reliable NFL quarterback? Sure, it’s absolutely possible. But there is also a very feasible possibility that he simply doesn’t have what it takes.
Some guys aren’t cut out for the league. Only time will tell if Wilson is one of those guys. Perhaps Wilson will get his mind back on track after a full offseason or a few years on the bench, allowing him to finally maximize his special physical gifts. Or, maybe the guy we are watching right now is who he will always be.
In addition to his mental state, Wilson’s fundamentals also require a massive overhaul. His footwork and overall lower-body mechanics are flat-out bad. What he could get away with at BYU is now costing him in the NFL. Nothing is going to change regarding Wilson’s accuracy until he takes the time to make significant changes to his throwing mechanics.
Wilson is a certified project at this point. It will be interesting to see how the Jets handle him in the offseason.