NY Jets: The 3 biggest ways QB Zach Wilson showed progress in his first training camp – NorthJersey.com

Posted: August 28, 2021 at 12:50 pm

FLORHAM PARK The Zach Wilson experience has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for New York Jets fans in the first month of training camp.

There was some concern early when Wilson struggled through his first week-plus of practice sending some fans into a panic. Two weeks later, Wilson was getting nationwide praise for his nearly flawless performance against the Packers in the second preseason game.

Of course, the heavy criticism and glowing praise he's already received are both massive overreactions. It's still way too early in this journey to know what it will lead to for Wilson.

But he has shown some important improvements in training camp that should translate well into the games that actually count.

Here are the three biggest ways Wilson has shown progress this preseason.

One of the things that gave Wilson a lot of trouble early in training camp was the constant pressure being applied by the defensive line. This was back when Carl Lawson was beating Mekhi Becton at least once a series, and the defensive line was regularly getting into the backfield. And it seemed to impact Wilson, who at times was holding the ball too long or even bolting from the pocket before it was necessary.

Wilson is still facing a lot of pressure: He was sacked more than 10 times in the two joint practices with the Packers last week and was constantly scrambling against the Eagles' defensive front this week.

But he has looked far more comfortable because he's doing a better job of sensing, starting before the play, when he might need to get rid of it quickly, or when he needs to get out of the pocket. And his big play to Corey Davis on Saturday in Green Bay was a perfect example of that progress.

The play was botched from the beginning because Wilson and running back Ty Johnson had a miscommunication before the play that resulted in Wilson being lined up on the wrong side for the play-action fake. But Wilson stayed with it, tried to step back into the pocket before sensing the pressure in the middle, bolting to his right and unleashing a ridiculous throw.

It impressed everyone who saw it, including Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers who believes Wilson will have to do a lot of that this year.

"He can throw the heck out of it," Rodgers said on the broadcast of the game "He had a really nice throw where he broke the pocket, broke contain, moving to his right, threw it down the right sideline. That's the kind of stuff he's going to need to do. As we saw [last] week in practice, they've got a lot of young guys. Their front still needs to gel together. I said, 'man, you've got to be on your footwork, make sure you're dealing that ball, because there are growing pains for a rookie, for sure. Especially on a team that struggled last year."

In 20 passing plays this preseason he has yet to take anything close to a big hit. That's a good sign. But it will be harder to do against first-team defenses in the regular season.

From his early practices with the Jets, Wilson has made a point to get through his reads. And he's generally done a good job of it. But early in camp, especially in red-zone situations, he had a tendency to lock on to one guy. Well, he's definitely made some progress there, as his first touchdown as a professional showed.

It happened early in the second quarter against the Packers. Wilson scanned the field, starting from the right, and when he didn't see what he wanted he quickly snapped his head to the left, saw the positioning of the safety and Tyler Croft running a seam route near the end zone, and immediately recognized what he needed to do.

"They were in their cover three," Wilson said. "They had a backer sitting in the middle on my first read to the right. Tyler did a good job staying up the seam; the safety was a little bit deep. So I just tried to put the ball on his back shoulder a little bit, keep it away from that safety. Hes a big body. Hell take a shot. And he got into the end zone. It was a good route. Good execution.

The speed at which Wilson processed the information and then turned it into a perfect throw was remarkable. And it's part of the reason the Jets are so excited about their young quarterback.

The bad turnovers were the most concerning aspect of Wilson's early training camp struggles. They took the luster off of his good days and made good practices feel bad. A perfect example: late in his third practice, Wilson rolled to the left in a seven-on-seven end zone drill and scanned the end zone for a receiver to throw to. No one was open, but Wilson threw the ball up for grabs and it got picked.

Wilson was in a similar situation during Wednesday's final joint practice with the Eagles. This time, he launched it over the end zone.

If Wilson is going to be a good quarterback, he's going to have to continue taking risks. No good quarterback plays risk-free football.

"Turning the ball over is never a good thing," Wilson said. "But if you have zero turnovers and you also have zero explosive plays youre not winning games either."

This will be a work in progress throughout his rookie year and for the rest of his career. But Wilson already seems to have started figuring out what he can and can't get away with at this level. He will still throw some bad picks, that's inevitable. But if he can continue to improve managing his risks, he'll have a whole lot to show for the good gambles.

"You got to have that balance as a quarterback of when its OK to push the ball down the field and understanding this is third and long and theyre not giving us anything, just throw the check-down and live to play the next down and lets play the field position. Thats what were learning out here, thats what practice is for, to pick up on all those things."

Andy Vasquezis the Jetsbeat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analysis, news, trades and more, pleasesubscribe todayanddownload our app.

Email:vasqueza@northjersey.com

Twitter:@andy_vasquez

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NY Jets: The 3 biggest ways QB Zach Wilson showed progress in his first training camp - NorthJersey.com

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