Zach Wilson arrives in London on the back of his first career NFL win as the New York Jets take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.30pm Sunday
The job of New York Jets starting quarterback comes with the asterisk of Joe Namath’s Broadway prestige shadowing your every throw, something Zach Wilson will have learned quickly since arriving in the NFL.
Where Namath sported the grizzly chest hair and moustache customary to the 1960s and 70s, Wilson offers the utmost clean-cut look perhaps more reflective of the modernised face of a franchise.
But where Namath welcomed the responsibility as underdog torchbearer to deliver Super Bowl III glory for the AFL’s Jets in 1969, Wilson has similarly immersed himself in the assignment of quashing the noise and ending a playoff drought that currently stands at 10 years. As Namath did, Wilson wants the fight.
The NFL is back in London! The New York Jets take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.30pm The NFL is back in London! The New York Jets take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday – live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.30pm
The sling-shot arm and downfield aggression is befitting of a marriage with first-year head coach Robert Saleh and his ‘all gas no brakes’ mantra. Wilson will not shy from the gunslinger approach, nor will he shy from adapting it.
“They’ve got a really talented quarterback, all the arm talent in the world, when he gets outside the pocket he can make people pay,” said the Atlanta Falcons head coach ahead of Sunday’s matchup. “Obviously he’s a good passer, that’s why he was drafted with the second overall pick.”
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Ears pricked with intrigue at the offseason admission he had been using training camp to understand which throws he could and could not get away with in the NFL amid his transition from college. Hereby presenting the caveat to a fearless rookie quarterback; taking risk means accepting hiccups, though the early signs suggest that will not deter Wilson.
He touched down in London riding the momentum of a first career NFL win after throwing for 297 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to lead the Jets to a 27-24 overtime victory against the Tennessee Titans in Week Four.
It makes for a wildly contrasting mood to that which lingered after a three-game losing streak, during which Wilson threw seven interceptions including four in a 25-6 defeat to the New England Patriots.
Around The NFL’s Dan Hanzus and Gregg Rosenthal join NFL Overtime to preview Sunday’s clash between the Jets and Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London Around The NFL’s Dan Hanzus and Gregg Rosenthal join NFL Overtime to preview Sunday’s clash between the Jets and Falcons at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London
“I’m not paying attention to it, but they should be booing, right?” said Wilson of jeers around MetLife Stadium during the Week Two loss to Bill Belichick’s side.
“There’s that switch inside where you’ve just got to hit the reset button. I’ve got to tell myself I can’t be gun shy. I’ve got to be aggressive down the field.”
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His maiden win proved the rollercoaster it maybe always promised to be, Wilson producing a still-in-the-lab cocktail of masterful deep balls and a couple of head-scratching misfires while glossing showreel moments with the ‘boring’ football Saleh had nudged in his direction following the early interceptions.
One case of boring football equated to Wilson rolling right on a play-action bootleg before opting against testing Keelan Cole in traffic at the second level and instead dropping his eyes to Ryan Griffin’s shallow route for a more-than-tidy eight-yard completion during the second-quarter touchdown drive. It’s patience, it’s maturity, it’s the nature of learning in the NFL.
“What gets lost in the excitement of the explosive plays that he generated was I think it was 14 of his 18 completions were for seven yards or less,” said Saleh postgame. “He didn’t get hit, there were balls getting in and out of his hands. He had, I don’t have a QB rating in front of me or anything, but I know he was very efficient, and he can play that style of ball. And there was even more to be had in those situations.
Will Blackmon tells Inside The Huddle that he has been impressed by Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s play and believes there’s a positive energy in New York ahead of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons Will Blackmon tells Inside The Huddle that he has been impressed by Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s play and believes there’s a positive energy in New York ahead of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons
“But at the same time, everyone saw the creativity and the off-schedule stuff that is getting all the attention, but that represented four of his completions. He’s in really good head space, his mindset’s in the right spot in terms of he knows he can be even better and those are things he’ll continue to grow on.”
The miscues seen early on were either non-existent or the kind he could ‘get away with’ at BYU, where he logged a 73.5 completion percentage along with 33 touchdowns to just three interceptions in his breakout 2020 season.
That good, bad and ugly concoction entails a refusal to be disheartened. Wilson rivalled his fourth pick against the Patriots with one of the ugliest of ugly interceptions against the Titans after an apparent misunderstanding with Corey Davis, to whom he then returned with a 30-yard completion on the ensuing touchdown drive after expertly navigating a busy pocket and getting the ball out in a flash to take advantage of the soft coverage.
He proceeded to flex a subtle skew-whiff, almost side-arm laser we would be gushing over had it been Patrick Mahomes when he fired between the helmets of the engaged offensive tackle and opposition linebacker to find Davis for a new set of downs from the Jets’ own 13-yard line.
On the same drive came his 54-yard bomb to Cole on third-and-six, Wilson gliding through his progressions to spot Ty Johnson covered in the flat before escaping to his right, delaying and delaying until flicking the wrist in timing with his receiver’s improvised out-and-up double move for an off-platform, near-jump-pass spectacular. It was a throw only select quarterbacks could make.
Watch Zach Wilson throw an impressive 53-yard deep TD pass to Corey Davis in the Jets’ game against the Titans Watch Zach Wilson throw an impressive 53-yard deep TD pass to Corey Davis in the Jets’ game against the Titans
Up next was the 29-yard link up with Jamison Crowder at Tennessee’s five-yard line, a test of his mental processing as much as his arm talent as Wilson fumbled the snap before lifting his eyes and sending a dagger to his slot receiver, whose return to action is a major boost.
“They’d gotten into their man coverage, and based on where the safety was playing, how tight they were playing, I knew whether it was him (Crowder) or Corey (Davis) crossing the field, I knew one of them was going to have a good shot,” explained Wilson. “Right before I snapped the ball feeling the safety push a little more to my right I knew that J-Mo probably had the best option there, and so right as I picked the ball up I was trying to find him down the field.”
Then there was the 53-yard touchdown pass to Davis with the game tied in the fourth quarter, Wilson scurrying to his right and gesturing for his No. 1 target to go deep before floating one in the bucket between two defenders. It was effortless. Here was the arm that scouts became besotted with, with the bonus glimpse of that self-assurance as he ushered his receiver downfield.
“The cool thing I like about Zach Wilson is he’s going to keep slinging it regardless and not in a way where it’s careless but in a way where he’s not afraid,” said Sky Sports NFL analyst Will Blackmon on Inside the Huddle.
“What I love is that despite him throwing a crazy interception, he still came back and found ways to fire the football down the field.”
The Good Morning Football crew take a look at some of Zach Wilson and Kyler Murray’s best plays from their impressive outings in Week Four in the NFL The Good Morning Football crew take a look at some of Zach Wilson and Kyler Murray’s best plays from their impressive outings in Week Four in the NFL
There were misses, too. He overthrew a wide-open Davis with a chance to close out the game on third-and-10 with 2.25 to play in the fourth quarter; he underthrew a wide-open Griffin on first-and-nine from the Titans’ nine-yard line for a would-be walk-off touchdown in overtime. It was almost like they were too easy.
He did not need to be told.
“I was beating myself up on that last drive,” said Wilson. “I’ve got to take advantage of my opportunities to end that game.”
Wilson is learning by the week, as is first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur as he tries to incorporate the wrinkles he helped Kyle Shanahan implement during his time with the San Francisco 49ers.