New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is the rogue factor that could keep him team out of the playoffs. Whether he thinks so or not.
In the 2021 season, the New York Jets had, by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics, the NFL’s worst defense. Through an outstanding draft and series of free agent moves, not to mention a dynamic coaching staff led by head coach Robert Saleh, that same Jets franchise came into Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots ranked sixth in Defensive DVOA this year.
That ranking will probably go up after what happened in the Patriots game. The Jets’ defense limited New England to three offensive points. The Patriots had five three-and-out drives, and quarterback Mac Jones was sacked six times, with eight quarterback hits.
But with all that, the Jets lost the game, 10-3. Why? Because the offense, led by quarterback Zach Wilson, was historically awful. The Jets punted 10 times in this game, and Wilson had just nine completions on 22 attempts for 77 yards. Anytime you punt more times than your quarterback has completions, that is a very bad sign. On the tenth punt, with five seconds left in the game, rookie cornerback Marcus Jones returned it 84 yards for the game’s only touchdown.
After the game, Wilson was asked if he had let his defense down.
The defense may see things differently, though they might not come right out and say it.
“It was really a do-our-job type of mentality,” linebacker Quincy Williams said after the game. “For the defense, it was the coverage and the rush working together. We came out with a lot of sacks, we were playing violent and everybody was rushing to the ball.”
Saleh wanted to make sure everybody knew where the problems weren’t.
“I thought the defense was outstanding,” he said. “I thought our D-line got after it. We had some missed tackles in the first half, but the sequence where we had the penalty, then the sack to make it a hard field goal at the end of the half, I thought that was really, really good by the defense. But then we just couldn’t capitalize on their good play.”
Wilson’s issues were not limited to this game. Not by a long shot. Through the first 10 weeks of the 2022 season, per Pro Football Focus, only Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett had a lower passer rating (68.8) than Wilson’s 75.5. Wilson’s passer rating under pressure coming into Sunday’s game was 6.6 — by far the NFL’s worst, as Mac Jones ranked second at 27.2. When pressured this season, Wilson had completed 11 of 52 passes for 158 yards, one touchdown, and five interceptions. Wilson’s completion rate under pressure of 21.2% under pressure is also by far the NFL’s worst — Steelers backup Mitch Trubisky ranks second at 34.4. Wilson’s yards per attempt of 3.0 under pressure? Also the NFL’s worst by far; Trubisky ranks second at 3.6.
Want more? Wilson is one of the NFL’s worst deep passers. Coming into this game, he had completed four of 16 passes of 20 or more air yards for 195 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. Only Pickett (19.9) and Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals (24.9) had a worse passer rating on deep balls than Wilson’s 38.3.
There is nothing that Wilson does at even a league-average level, and that’s quite an indictment for a quarterback selected second overall in the 2021 draft, and who has started 20 career games.
“We’re all hurting,” linebacker and defensive captain C.J. Mosley said after the Patriots game. “We felt like we played a hell of a game. It’s tough to take a loss like that. But we’ve got seven games to go, there’s still a lot of football left and a lot of ways to get better as a team. We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
When it came to the offense, Saleh didn’t mince any words.
Saleh hasn’t fully committed to pulling Wilson in favor of somebody else; that may have more to do with who’s defined as “anybody else” on the current roster (Hello, Joe Flacco and Mike White) than any true belief in Wilson’s ultimate potential.
That said, the oxygen is running thin. With this loss, the Jets are at the bottom of the AFC West at 6-4, looking up at the 6-4 Patriots, the 7-3 Buffalo Bills, and the 7-3 Miami Dolphins. No matter how great that defense is, it simply can’t transcend an offense that can’t function.
And right now, the Jets’ second-year quarterback is the problem that could keep this team out of the playoffs. Whether he thinks so or not.