Zach Wilson’s Arrival Is Just Enough to Stoke Jets’ Dreams
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – As Zach Wilson was on a red-eyed flight from California to the East Coast early Thursday morning, he stretched out in one of those top-notch seats that converts into a bed. He slept a lot, he says.
The rude awakening came on Friday morning against NFL defensemen on the shiny green grass of the Jets’ training ground.
Wilson, the young quarterback the Jets hope to lead them to a second Super Bowl in more than half a century, had a tough inauguration on his first day of NFL training camp. There were missed passes, a potential sack and a bad interception after Wilson missed the first two days of camp because he and the team had failed to resolve contract negotiations.
“I wouldn’t say I’m late,” Wilson said. “It was still only my first live bullets. It’s just getting back into the mix. I know my pieces, I know my missions. I know what’s going on and I just have to run.
Eventually, perhaps as early as Saturday, when fans are allowed to watch the Jets live for the first time since the end of the 2019 regular season – or Tuesday, when Wilson turns 22 – he will have the opportunity to perform. good performance against that of Friday in tatters. And who will ever remember their first, horrible day at training camp, anyway?
It’s what he does in regular season games, and possibly the playoffs, that will matter the most. With Wilson, there are high hopes and expectations that he will accomplish what recent predecessors in this position like Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Sam Darnold were unable to.
The Jets (2-14 last season) caught Wilson with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, a shining star from Brigham Young University, who climbed the draft table in the weeks leading up to the selection day. He has a tender and youthful appearance and at around 6ft 1in he emerged as one of the smallest players on the field on Friday. But at least he was finally here.
His absence from the camp was settled Thursday when he finally signed his rookie contract, allowing him to take the field. Although rookie contracts are predefined based on the niche the player was recruited into, how the money is paid out and other technical aspects of the deal need to be negotiated. It took Wilson and his agent a few extra days to come to a deal with the Jets, and he was the last first-round draft draft to sign.
“There’s a part of you that just wants to do it,” said Wilson, who wore a face mask as he stood on a post-practice podium. “But you want to do it the right way. It’s a rookie deal that you’re going to have to play with for four years, so you have to deal with the business side.
It had been agonizing weeks for Wilson and the Jets, who learned of the death of Greg Knapp, an offensive assistant coach, on July 22. Five days earlier, Knapp, 58, had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle. in California and never regained consciousness.
Wilson, who worked with Knapp at rookie camp, optional training events and mini camp, said he was shocked by the news.
“I had just spoken to him the day before,” he said. “It was almost like I didn’t believe it, like I called him right away on the phone, he would have answered. It really hit me later. I just pray for his family and everyone. We have to go through this together. “
Wilson and the other two young quarterbacks, James Morgan and Mike White, worked closely with Mike LaFleur, the team’s offensive coordinator, on Friday. Despite several bad throws, it wasn’t a bad day for Wilson. His first pass was completed by Elijah Moore for a long win, eliciting cheers and “oohs” from players on the sidelines.
“We have a quarterback,” said Moore.
Wilson also threw a touchdown pass to Corey Davis during a red zone drill. Overall, he only completed 5 of 10 assists and completed just 1 of 6 in 7-on-7 drills. Robert Saleh, the Jets first-year head coach, dismissed the rust from Wilson and noted that defenses were generally more advanced than infractions at this point in training camp.
He also noted that Wilson exhibited certain traits that every NFL quarterback needs, including an imposing presence, on his first day of camp.
“He has enormous confidence,” Saleh said. “He comes into the squad and he doesn’t stutter, he gives the call for play, gets to the line of scrimmage, makes people line up. So he has that leadership presence, and that will only get better.
During his three years with Brigham Young, Wilson’s completion rate was 67.7%, peaking at 73.5 in his senior year. He had 33 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions this season. That’s why the Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers and picked Wilson so high, and why they’ll pay him $ 35.1 million guaranteed over four years, including $ 22.9 million in signing bonuses.
What could Wilson buy with all that money, other than a first class plane ticket?
“You can’t buy a Super Bowl,” he said, “so I guess I have to work for that.”
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