In drafting Zach Wilson earlier this year, the Jets handed their franchise over to a quarterback that has the potential to be a superstar.
His elite arm talent and playmaking ability have led fans and pundits alike to use Wilson's name in the same sentences as Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
Even in his debut—a loss to the Panthers in Week 1—Wilson flashed his skills outside of the pocket, making defenders miss before firing the football down the field.
Wilson's style of play is fun to watch. It's a source of highlight material and once he masters it, there's a good chance Wilson will blossom into a top-tier quarterback in this league.
After Sunday's clunker in New York's home opener against the Patriots, however, Wilson's head coach Robert Saleh is preaching a different approach for the signal-caller going forward.
"It's OK to play a boring game of football," Saleh said following the loss to New England. "He's an electric dude. He's competitive as crap and he wants to win so bad, but sometimes it's OK to be boring. That's probably the biggest lesson he can take out of this one."
Those comments were a result of Wilson's four-interception day, a performance rooted in poor decisions, forcing the football rather than restraining himself and checking down to find the open man.
Wideout Corey Davis took the blame for one of Wilson's interceptions on Sunday after the ball slipped through his fingers, but the other three were throws that the rookie wants back.
"I’ve got to start better and then really we’ve just got to execute better across the board," Wilson said. "I’m going to take that this week and it’s on my shoulders. I’ve got to do better."
Take Wilson's fourth and final pick of the afternoon for example. Yes, the Jets needed 28 yards for a first, but it was only second down. Rather than lofting a deep ball right to Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Wilson could've bought time with his feet or simply thrown the ball away.
The quarterback mentioned some confusion on that play, perhaps hinting at an incorrect route or miscommunication. Either way, it was an ill-advised throw.
It's easier said than done for a rookie quarterback to throw the ball away, but it sounded like Wilson got the message after the game, even before watching any film.
"I’ve just got to take care of the ball and as soon as it’s not there, the checkdown’s not there, throw the ball away, get out of the pocket, throw it away, make a play, whatever," he said. "I felt like I was seeing the field well. We’ve just got to execute and I’ve got to make good decisions."
On the other side, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones frequently hit his receivers in the flat, dinking and dunking effectively all afternoon. It wasn't necessarily the sexiest approach, and Wilson ended up with more passing yards on the day (210 to Jones' 186), but New England's signal-caller extended drives, setting his supporting cast up for success and most importantly, he took care of the football.
Wilson's maturity will come with time. There were always going to bumps on the road during the BYU product's first year at this level. But there's a balance between being conservative and being smart.
The best quarterbacks in the NFL are able to be patient, taking what they are given while waiting for the defense to make a mistake and open the door for an explosive play. If you try and do too much, as Wilson has done routinely over his first two games, then teams can beat themselves.
All that being said, Wilson recognized that he still needs to trust in his instincts and his talent when the football is in his hands. When he's able to flush previous mistakes and mix that confidence with an improved approach, the sky may very well be the limit for No. 2 in green and white.
"Every single play is a new play. I’ve just got to tell myself, ‘Hey, I can’t be gun-shy, I got to swing it around, I’ve got to still be aggressive down the field, especially when we’re down, and I’ve got to take care of the ball.’ When things don’t go right, you’ve just got to move on."
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