FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Zach Wilson waited a month to return to this place.
The New York Jets rookie quarterback is in great health and the starting position is his.
“It’s awesome,” Wilson said Wednesday. “ You know, just that rush, that feeling that you just get from being back on the pitch, it’s exciting. I’m just happy to be back with the guys. ”
Wilson sprained the posterior collateral ligament in his right knee against New England on Oct. 24. He has spent the last four weeks recovering and rehabilitating, remaining patient while the Jets played without him. He’s trained before each of the last two games and his knee has improved, but coach Robert Saleh insisted the team wouldn’t play Wilson until he was perfectly healthy.
He is now ready to go.
“I feel 100% confident in my ability to go out there and play football the way I need to play football,” Wilson said. “ That’s kind of what I said to the coaches, I feel like I can go out there and play my game without worrying about it. And so, really, I feel like that shouldn’t be a goal for the future.
“I feel like I can just play ball. “
He will have that chance Sunday in Houston when the Jets face the Texans – with both teams battling for a 2-8 record.
“As soon as we got clearance he was very healthy and ready to ride and mentally good,” Saleh said, “we were good with the decision.”
And New York is lucky Wilson is ready to play as substitutes Mike White and Joe Flacco were put on the COVID-19 roster on Tuesday. White tested positive so he came out for the game. Flacco, who is not vaccinated, is in close contact and has to test negative for five consecutive days. So Saleh said he still has a chance to travel separately from the squad and be able to play on Sunday. But the plan is to elevate Josh Johnson from the practice squad to be Wilson’s replacement.
While Wilson was sidelined, the Jets offense showed marked improvement. Once ranked low in several categories, New York has been one of the NFL’s most effective lately. The Jets have averaged 346.5 yards for the NFL in the last four games behind White, Flacco and Johnson. New York also has the most touchdown passes (10) and first pass tries (74) during this span.
Wilson was struggling with just four touchdowns and nine interceptions at the time of his injury, with Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur calling on the QB to play “boring” football – in other words, taking what the defenses give him and no try to do too much. One might therefore wonder whether he will feel any pressure to keep this level of production constant.
“No, of course not,” insisted Wilson. “ I mean, I play my ball. I play ball. And, you know, thanks to those guys. I’ve been able to learn from their reps and everything they’ve been through, but I have to go out there and play my game and not worry about that stuff. ”
During his time on the sidelines, Wilson studied offense and how other quarterbacks operated on the pitch. He also watched his own tape and admitted seeing things that made him wonder why he reacted in a certain way to certain parts.
The Jets raved about Wilson’s insatiable thirst for learning and his ability to devour the playbook and play movie. So, the young quarterback thinks he’ll only do better – physically and mentally – after this layoff.
“I feel like what I’m looking for, what I need to do as a quarterback is going in the right direction,” Wilson said. “ Of course you’re still learning, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction when it comes to my understanding of the game and what I’m looking for. And really the ability to just go through the offense and the mindset, I guess you could say, to make the best decision, every game for the team. And put these guys first. ”
Wilson and the Jets believe he will be better since he last played. Others?
“I don’t care what people really think, if I’m being honest,” Wilson said. “I want to see improvement in myself as far as when I watch the tape at the end of the day do I see improvement? You know, not necessarily by looking at a statistic row or just the earnings column.
“ When we run our business, each individual player, the wins will take care of themselves. ”
NOTES: WR Corey Davis (groin), DL Folorunso Fatukasi (foot), DT Nathan Shepherd (elbow), DE Shaq Lawson (wrist) and LB CJ Mosley (shoulder) were all limited to training. Saleh didn’t mention Davis or Fatukasi’s injuries before training, so it appears they happened during the session. FB Nick Bawden was signed to the active roster and LB LaRoy Reynolds was reinstated to the practice squad after being on the injured practice / reserve squad.