Zach is the guy
We have all heard the hype on Zach Wilson, and now we have had a few weeks to see him in action…just bits and pieces but still action nonetheless. Now let’s extrapolate that out to absurdity and ask the question. Will Zach (as a rookie) break the Jets record for passing yards in a single season of 4,007 yards that has been held by Joe Namath since 1967?
It sounds ludicrous to even ask the question, but why don’t we just look at what we know then see how far fetched that idea is?
If you can remember back on January 3 of this year I posted an article stating that Zach Wilson had the best skill set of any QB in the NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence had all the credentials. He has been a team leader since he was in middle school and won a National Championship as a freshman at Clemson. Yet Lawrence went into almost every game as the favorite to win. Also Lawrence never really got measurably better during his stay in South Carolina.
We all saw Zach Wilson develop over time. He was a baby faced starter at BYU who struggled some his first few years. Then Wilson spent many weekends over the summer of 2019 making the 10-hour trek down I-15 to sharpen the finer points of playing quarterback during training sessions with John Beck. Beck led BYU to an 11-2 record in 2006 and has parlayed an NFL career playing for Miami, Baltimore, Washington and Houston into a gig as an outstanding QB coach.
The difference in Wilson’s play on the field was easy to see. He was smarter with the ball. His technique was better than before. and his accuracy increased. Many questioned his competition but not his talent.
What I look for in a QB when I scout them are elite skills and the desire to work on his game. The later is almost more important than the skills part. Every player coming to the NFL must develop further, or he will not be successful. Wilson has a work ethic that is unmatched. His college QB coach was always amazed by Wilson’s obsession for work.
Aaron Roderick, (BYU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) said, “He wore me out,” over Wilson’s endless appetite for knowledge. “He made me a better coach, he kept me on my toes. I was always worried about showing up at our quarterback meetings because I never wanted to show up and have him know more than I did about an opponent or seen more film than I’d seen, which was a challenge.”
“I had to work to stay ahead of him. In game planning, I was always working toward a plan without flaws, because if I didn’t he’d find those flaws. He’s a film guy, and works at it really hard. He made me a better coach. It was fun to work with him.”
Wilson’s desire to play is also off the charts even when it might not be in his best interest. “He had a serious shoulder problem and surgery that offseason, then ended up playing his sophomore year injured, not 100 percent. Going into that first game I gave him the opportunity to redshirt and think about a pro career. He said ‘no way, I’m playing.’ He was playing well, then he broke his thumb midseason — making a tackle. He could have sat out the rest of the season, but three weeks later he’s playing, but not with a lot of flexibility in the hand. He should not have been there and just gutted through. His sophomore numbers were not off the charts [9 games, 199-of-319 passing, 11 TDs, 9 INTs], but I thought that was when he really won over his teammates. He was willing to play hurt, not concerned about statistics. He just wanted to win,” Roderick said.
That type of dedication and devotion to duty is not always as prevalent as you might think which makes Wilson special. He even impressed his head coach Robert Saleh who was known by his players as an incredibly hard working coach. Saleh said, “His process is lightyears beyond a normal rookie, when I talk process, I’m not necessarily talking about how he processes the game when the ball is snapped. I’m talking about the way he goes about his day-to-day business and the way he studies tape, how he studies the night before, what he’s doing and the things he’s asking the video guys, the information he wants.”
“Just from speaking from a defensive standpoint, I’ve been fortunate to coach some of the best linebackers this game has ever had. Those guys were swimming their first year and were grabbing at things to try and figure it out. This young man has a tremendous process on how he gets to gameday. It’s that process that we trust, it’s why he’ll continue to grow and fix mistakes that he may have. That’s why we talk about how his process is phenomenal.”
Zach’s mental acuity helps him learn and retain knowledge at a quick pace. but it is his natural God given abilities that really excite many fans. Like here against the Packers he is looking for the post pattern but it is covered so he moves in the pocket and makes a throw only a handful of players could make.
This is an awkward, off balanced throw across his body with a single foot on the ground and he fires a laser shot. It is thrown from the middle of the field to the sideline 37 yards downfield that was released in a heartbeat and on a frozen rope. It’s just impressive.
Zach wanted to play against the Eagles but the lack of a cohesive offensive line led Saleh to leave Wilson on the bench, not that he didn’t try to play. “Zach always lobbies, he wants to play, he wants to be out there. They all lobbied, to be honest with you. But the decision was made.” Saleh said.
Salah also said, “From the offensive side of the ball, when you look at all the different things that happen on the offensive line, with Mekhi Becton being out and things being shuffled, it just wasn’t worth it. We just felt like we got enough accomplished. We wanted to give the younger guys a look, to give them a chance to etch their spot in stone on our roster.”
“You don’t want to get injured or anything before the season and put yourself in a bad spot. Obviously, I’m not worried about that, but you know how it is with injuries across the board. I wish I could play more just because the experiences, the learning, the tempo of the game, the operation — everything is just so good for us to see and feel and just get used to.” Wilson said.
Here he throws with anticipation to a well covered receiver, but the throw is pinpoint accurate and gets there lightning quick.
This is a dime to the outside that most QBs couldn’t make because it has to get there in rapid fashion or it will be intercepted.
Bart Scott (who is a former Jets LB) said he likes Wilson because he has what he calls a “slow heartbeat” and likened him to Joe Flacco because he always stays poised even when things around him are deteriorating. Better yet Wilson has great feel in the pocket and can sense impending danger which was one of the things Mark Sanchez was oblivious to. Wilson also has great movement skill to escape danger. He didn’t run at his pro day but he is thought to have (by those around him) near 4.5/40 speed.
Here Wilson is on a 3rd and 9 play throwing into the teeth of the defense with 3 defenders around his receiver. It makes no difference.
Chris Sims was saying on his podcast that the is really impressed with Wilson, “He belongs that’s for sure.” He says he is a pure “baller” and he looks at Wilson in the pro game and sees the same guy he say at BYU last year. What he means by that is he is very comfortable in a pro offense. He is not hesitant or shy about unloading a pass into coverage because he knows it will get there and he makes smart decisions with the ball. As Simms said, “He’s the same dude” on the field that he watched at BYU.
Simms was also impressed by his talent saying, “He can make the throws that are really high level and make them look like very easy for him to do.”
As fans sometimes we don’t appreciate what we are watching and need to step back and realize what we are witnessing. I used to pull my hair out watching Sam Darnold and his happy feet. Darnold will never be an accurate QB because he has very poor set up and technique throwing the ball. In fact Wilson developed some arm problems because he was throwing across his body in years past when he went back to pass. Because of his work with John Beck his setup is significantly better (it’s a work in progress), and the results are easy to see like on this dart of a throw.
I spent three years just wishing that Sam Darnold would do this just once without dancing every throw. This is beautiful/ Wilson drops back, sets his weight on his back leg, rotates his hips then follows through with the throw in a stable position. He leads the receiver perfectly with the ball just in front of his face so he can catch it then immediately see the defenders around him allowing the receiver to avoid trouble or make some YAC.
From a technique approach it is nice to see a technically sound QB which will make him an accurate passer but you still need to learn how to be a QB. Technical skill is great, but can he move the defense with his eyes? Can he read a defense and make adjustments?
Here he does just that as he looks right and you see the linebacker and safety move up to cover the slot receiver which allows a throwing lane to the TE down the middle of the field.
This throw is not a laser shot as there are defenders in the way so Wilson puts a little arc on the throw, just enough to make it over the 2nd level of the defense and again right in front of the receiver for an easy catch then protect himself then score.
Wilson’s numbers for the preseason were impressive going 15-of-20, 191 yards, two TDs, no turnovers, no sacks, and a 137.7 passer rating. I realize he was facing very vanilla defenses, but the Jets also ran a vanilla offense. Also unlike some other rookie QBs who will go unnamed the Jets didn’t script any plays for a particular defense. Some teams scripted a couple of special plays so their new QB would have some success they could get the fans excited about, but the Jets didn’t do that.
Wilson has the type of level headedness that the Jets desperately need, as Wilson himself said. “I’ve got to go out there with the same approach every day of how I can just keep bettering myself. Not comparing myself to other people, but how can I just keep getting better and not feel complacent that I’m the guy.”
So without ever throwing an NFL pass I will ask the question; will Zack Wilson break the Jets record of 4,007 passing yards (which was done in a 14 game season) as a rookie? That record was set in 1967 so it is over 50 years old. and it was actually the first time any pro football QB ever threw for more than 4,000 yards. To do so Wilson would need to average (considering he plays every game) average about 236 yards a game. I realize that would be extraordinary for a rookie, but Zach has been pretty extraordinary so far. What do you think?