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NY Jets: All-22 film shows Zach Wilson missed open deep shots

Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets created opportunities for Zach Wilson, but he could not capitalize on them

As part of my instant reaction to the New York Jets’ Week 3 loss to the New England Patriots, I included offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as one of my two primary culprits for the loss, alongside quarterback Zach Wilson.

But after rewatching the film from the game, I came away thinking a little bit differently about Hackett’s performance.

While I stand by my criticisms of Hackett – he needs to distribute snaps more effectively and be less predictable with his play calling – the film revealed that Hackett was actually dialing up successful passing concepts on a consistent basis throughout the game. Wilson just kept botching them.

Despite Hackett’s faults, I firmly believe a league-average quarterback would have led the Jets to either two or three more touchdowns than Wilson did if they were placed into his shoes. Wilson continuously failed to capitalize on open receivers, leaving a ton of yards, first downs, and touchdowns on the field.

Let’s take a look at some of Wilson’s most egregious reps from the loss.

Every fan was angered when they saw Wilson throw a checkdown to Tyler Conklin on fourth-and-10 with the game on the line. While anger is always warranted when you see such a thing, it’s impossible to fully blame the quarterback without first viewing the All-22 and seeing whether he had any better options available. In this case, we can see that Wilson did indeed have a good option available downfield in Allen Lazard, who separates toward the sideline on a corner route, but Wilson still checks it down – even with a clean pocket.

One play earlier on third-and-10, Wilson had a chance to at least create a shorter fourth down if he targeted Garrett Wilson, who was wide open on a drag route over the middle. But Zach doesn’t see it until too late and misses the throw.

Wilson actually missed three opportunities in a row on that drive. On second-and-10, Wilson misses a window to hit Tyler Conklin, who gains a step on his defender. It’s definitely not an easy throw, but it’s one that any NFL quarterback should be able to hit at a fairly good clip – especially when throwing from a pristine pocket as Wilson does here.

That’ll be a theme in these clips. Wilson was often given great protection but made the offensive line look worse than it actually was by holding the ball too long or running himself into trouble.

This one isn’t quite as egregious as the rest of the plays in here, and I’m speculating a bit as to whether Wilson is truly at fault (it’s hard to say without knowing how he is told to read this). However, it’s puzzling why Wilson chose Allen Lazard’s opposite-hash out route when he had Garrett Wilson running the same route on the near side.

As it turns out, Lazard’s route was well-covered while Wilson burned his defender. Plus, with Lazard’s defender having heavy outside leverage, Wilson probably shouldn’t even have attempted the throw. If he looked off Lazard and progressed to Garrett, he had enough time to make the throw thanks to the protection and the large amount of separation created by Garrett.

On third-and-13 here, Garrett Wilson is immediately open on the fade route, as his defender drops into a two-high shell to leave him covered only by a defender retreating from the line of scrimmage. Zach never looks Garrett’s way. Zach could also go to Michael Carter, who wins on an angle route and has the leverage to potentially pick up the first down. Instead, Zach goes to the opposite side and checks it down to a non-YAC threat in Tyler Conklin.

On third-and-6, Randall Cobb is open over the middle on a crossing route, but Zach instead targets Garrett to the outside on a route that breaks short of the sticks. It’s really not the worst decision, but it would take a perfect throw for Garrett to catch the ball in a way where he could reach the sticks after the catch, and a perfect throw is not what Zach delivers. If Zach noticed the middle of the field vacated, he could have looked Cobb’s way for a much easier shot at the conversion.

The previous play showed Zach forcing the ball to Garrett when it wasn’t ideal. On this play, Zach should force the ball to Garrett but doesn’t. Garrett has a favorable 1-on-1 to the field side and creates separation coming back toward Zach. But Zach never even looks his way. After finishing his reads on the left side, Zach starts to jitter around despite no immediate pressure bearing down on him. He runs left and never gets a chance to see Garrett open.

This is a tougher one to truly criticize without knowing how Wilson is taught to read the play. On second-and-22, perhaps the play calls for him to take the quick-hitter immediately if he sees it, even if it means disregarding the deeper options. Still, when you have a receiver running this wide open down the field and the protection up front is good, it’s hard not to wonder if someone whose last name rhymes with “Dodgers” would have explored all his options on this play and found Cobb for a gain of at least 30-40 yards.

Being third-and-7, it’s hard to justify Zach throwing a checkdown at the sticks with two linebackers in the area when he has Garrett running a go route to the near side. Again, I’m not in the meeting room, but it feels as if Zach should at least check on Garrett here. If he did, he would see that the flat defender lets Garrett free way too early, leaving Wilson wide open in a huge patch of grass between the flat defender and the deep safety. At the very least, Zach can hit Garrett with a Cover 2 hole shot for the first down. With a perfect throw, this could be a touchdown.

The Jets offense has a lot of issues right now. Despite them all, there were still enough opportunities available on Sunday for New York to score a lot more points if the quarterback simply performed at an average level. Unfortunately, Zach Wilson is holding the Jets back. Who could’ve seen this coming after he was benched twice last year due to costly reps on film that looked just like these?

New York’s refusal to add a true veteran backup in the offseason is coming back to haunt them.

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