There was something different about Zach Wilson when the second-year quarterback arrived at the New York Jets facility last week.
His teammates could feel the increased confidence – and they loved everything about it.
“My guy came back with a little more swag,” offensive tackle George Fant said of Wilson on Wednesday. “He’s ready to go, man.”
The immediate focus is on the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night with the Jets holding the fourth and 10th overall picks. New York will have four of the first 38 selections in a draft that is crucial for the franchise and general manager Joe Douglas, with all intentions on the Jets competing for a playoff spot this season – and breaking the longest active drought in the league at 11.
But to get there, New York needs Wilson to show marked improvement and show why he was the No. 2 pick a year ago.
“For me, it’s how effective can I be?” Wilson said on a Zoom call. “How can I get the ball out of my hands quickly? How can I help our O line with my presence in the pocket, my ability to step up and get the ball out of my hands to our ball carriers, downfield for our receivers and let these guys make plays How can I just be confident in the pocket, be accurate?
“I think everything takes care of itself once everyone starts doing their own thing – I think that’s perfect.”
Wilson had an up and down rookie season that started with major struggles, followed by a knee injury that sidelined him for four games and was capped by the fact that he didn’t not thrown an interception in his last five games. The overall numbers weren’t eye-popping — 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 55.6 completion percentage — but his reduction in streak errors was a sign of optimism.
“I 100% see greatness,” Douglas said on ESPN NY’s “The Michael Kay Show” last Friday. “I see a young quarterback who really went through the ringer to start the year. And what was most encouraging about Zach was when he came back, he maybe had a turnover. in the last six games. He was taking care of the football. He was playing within the framework of the scheme.
The game has clearly slowed down for Wilson, and he needs to keep it that way.
He’ll have a full offseason with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s playbook, and Wilson has regularly watched movies about the good and, more importantly, the bad plays of last season. Wilson also spent part of the offseason training at a few locations with various teammates — including wide receivers Elijah Moore, Corey Davis. Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios – to continue building a relationship.
“I think that stuff goes a long way,” Wilson said. “These receivers, they want to be great. My job is to let them be great and put the ball in their hands.
Wilson continued to work with John Beck, his personal quarterbacks coach who spent time with the Jets staff late last season. Wilson also threw to BYU players while at home in Utah, using that time to work on passes to receivers running live routes.
Meanwhile, Douglas has been busy this offseason adding playmakers around Wilson by signing tight ends CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, and guard Laken Tomlinson. New York has been aggressive in trying to negotiate for Tyreek Hill and has been mentioned as a potential business partner for San Francisco jack-of-all-trades dynamo Deebo Samuel.
Wide receivers are also likely to be on the Jets’ wish list early in the draft — perhaps as early as the No. 10 pick.
“I’m extremely excited about the plan,” Wilson said. “I feel like the organization as a whole, everyone is very connected in terms of being on the same page with everything. I know my trust in the owner and Joe D. and what they do, I feel like they have a really good plan.
And the ultimate success of this plan begins with Wilson.
“He’s doing everything he should be doing,” Fant said. “Certainly happy to see him back in the building. Excited for him this next coming season. So yeah, he definitely came back with a little something different.
NOTES: Fant said he had his knee checked in the offseason and is currently recovering, but expects to be fully healthy by training camp. He also said his agents and the Jets had talked about a contract extension and that he wanted to play the rest of his career with the Jets. … Wilson on the possibility of the Jets acquiring Samuel: “Obviously Deebo is a great player. There is certainly no hesitation there.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL