What can we expect from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in green and white this season?
Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated has us covered with some reasonable predictions.
Orr walked through expectations for all five rookie quarterbacks—from Trevor Lawrence to Mac Jones—and had Wilson's numbers up toward the top.
17 starts, 23 touchdowns, 3,900 passing yards, 15 or fewer interceptions, 60% completion rate
Racking up nearly 4,000 yards through the air would be quite the rookie season for the No. 2 overall pick. For some context, Sam Darnold threw for just 2,865 yards in his first season with Gang Green. Then again, that was in only 13 games—Orr expects Wilson to start all 17 for the Jets this year.
It's impossible to predict injuries, but with no other veteran quarterbacks on this roster, it's hard not to envision Wilson under center for every game this year.
Here's the rest of Orr's assessment on Wilson, and why the talented youngster can put together a solid first year in the pros:
The extreme vacillations in Wilson’s college numbers, despite having had the same coach and coordinator, are still puzzling to me. He went from a capable 12-touchdown, three-interception player as a freshman to an 11/9 player his sophomore year to a 33/3 player his junior season. Wilson has always been an impressive thrower who can think above the scheme. There are a number of examples in BYU’s offense where he would operate outside of the typical RPO formula to make plays (for example, the math in the box dictated a pass, but he read a crease and handed the ball off for a big gain) or shift to the second or third read in order to make a play that wasn’t necessarily designed to go to a certain place.
The nagging issue here is how he performed under pressure. The Jets allowed a sack every 12 dropbacks last season, and Wilson was barely touched during his final year. In the piece linked to above, Wilson’s former offensive coordinator argued that he has faced pressure in the past, though the evidence there isn’t encouraging. Wilson had a 38.8 Independent Quarterback Rating (IQR)—a stat from Sports Info Solutions that removes extraneous events like dropped balls, spikes and other irrelevant plays that often affect quarterback rating—when under pressure in 2019 and a 61.2 when facing pressure in 2018. All of a sudden that number jumped to 111.2 in 2020 when the schedule softened and his offensive line dominated opponents.
That’s why we’re seriously increasing his best-case interception threshold and softening the expectations for his completion percentage. While the Jets’ offensive line has improved dramatically, there are a few concerns there as well. Namely, how will left tackle Mekhi Becton assimilate to a vastly different scheme? Big boppers are not normally the preference for coaches running outside zone. Could there be some issues there? How quickly will Alijah Vera-Tucker catch on? As the unit gels, we could see some pressure forcing Wilson back into old, less desirable habits.
The true measure of success this season will be in how he handles them. The scheme will eventually take care of itself. Smart quarterbacks like Wilson can pick it up. What happens when everything goes awry is another issue altogether.
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