Zach Wilson won't be the only quarterback introduced to the Jets-Patriots rivalry on Sunday.
Mac Jones will be under center for New England at MetLife Stadium, looking to lead his team to their first victory of the season and prevent New York from a win in their home opener.
It's always a challenge preparing to face a rookie quarterback, especially in a system as advanced as one put together by head coach Bill Belichick. That's why Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was discouraged to see just how talented Jones is during his debut in Week 1.
"You anticipate seeing a young, inexperienced quarterback making young, inexperienced quarterback-type of decisions," Ulbrich told reporters this week. "Didn’t see a whole lot of that. Part of that was, I think he’s got some real skill, poise. Obviously comes from a school where they get NFL caliber coaching. So, he’s probably as NFL ready as you can find from a quarterback position."
The Alabama product threw for 281 yards against the Dolphins last Sunday, completing 29 of 39 passes with one touchdown and zero interceptions. It was a similar performance to that of Wilson in the sense that both first-round picks were pressured quite often.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh revealed this week that Gang Green was eyeing Jones leading up to the draft. He didn't say where—obviously Wilson was viewed as the superior option at No. 2 overall—but emphasized that the 23-year-old is impressive throwing the football.
"Every bit of deserving of a first-round draft choice. Decisive, good strong arm, very, very accurate, very, very smart," Saleh said. "It’s not surprising he shows poise and all that, it was not surprising to see him have success in his first game."
So, how do the Jets stop him and prevent the rookie from finding his weapons down the field? According to safety Marcus Maye, it starts with making sure windows are tight. That means the pressure is on for the Jets' young secondary while those up front are tasked with making Jones uncomfortable inside the pocket.
"He has a lot of arm talent," Maye said. "Seen him make all the throws watching him last year in college and now this year, preseason. He definitely has the arm, seems like he knows the offense pretty well. So we just got to do a great job of collapsing the pocket making sure he's not comfortable."
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