FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson appeared on the verge of taking the major step for which so many around the New York Jets — and their frustrated fans — have been waiting.
The third-year quarterback outplayed Patrick Mahomes in a 23-20 loss to Kansas City in front of a national audience on Oct. 1. There was hope Wilson, subbing for an injured Aaron Rodgers, would take off in his development and live up to all the expectations that made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2021.
Four games later, Wilson and the Jets are back where they've been for much of the past three seasons: searching for answers.
“Obviously, it’s not the ‘Greatest Show on Turf,’” coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday, referring to the high-scoring Rams teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. "Obviously, (Wilson) knows that there’s a lot of things he can do better, there’s a lot of things we can do better. He needs to get better, he knows that.
“I know the knee jerk reaction to this is to always hit the panic button.”
With the way Wilson and the Jets' offense have struggled lately, Jets fans want changes. And it's hard to blame them.
New York has eight touchdowns by its offense in eight games, and Wilson is doing nothing to lift the Jets with his performances. Still, the team is sticking with Wilson as its quarterback.
And Saleh pushed back at suggestions people above him in the organization are mandating Wilson continue to play.
“No, we’re on the same page with that,” Saleh said. “So, any conspiracy theory that might be out there, we’re on the same page.”
Saleh has also said he's not considering any changes to the play calling, so it remains Nathaniel Hackett's job.
But Hackett and Wilson need to see things improve in a big way or the already woeful offense will drag the Jets' playoff hopes down with them.
“I want the Jets fans obviously to hang with us and believe in us,” Wilson said when asked what he'd say to those who root for the team. "I hope they know as frustrated as they are, we’re even more frustrated. You know, we’re the guys out there that every week it’s felt like that and we need to be better. And so I want them to know that I’m doing everything I absolutely can to be the best quarterback I can be to help us get to the playoffs and more.
“And that’s all I want them to know is we’re fighting.”
But just getting some consistency on offense is a battle in itself. The Jets rank last in the NFL in third down conversion rate (22.2%) and last in red zone conversion rate (24%).
Wilson has five touchdown passes, but only one in his past four games. On the flip side, he also have five interceptions with just one coming in his past six games. Some would point to that as progress, but there are other issues plaguing him and the Jets' offense.
“As a whole with all the circumstances and considering all the different things that are happening on offense in terms of the lack of continuity on the (offensive) line and those guys trying to get their feet underneath them, he’s doing the best that he can,” Saleh said. “But again, he still needs to get better.”
Wilson had season highs in a 27-6 loss to the Chargers on Monday night with 33 completions — a career best— and 49 attempts and 263 yards passing. But he was sacked eight times and lost two fumbles, and held the ball too long at times on plays that short-circuited drives.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot, you know?" Wilson said. "And it sucks because we’re not doing a lot offensively, but progressively each week I feel more and more comfortable. I feel like I’m getting better and that’s all you can do, you know, really, in my eyes.
"It’s like if you’re progressively just working to improve and get better, it’s going to click at some point. And I think everyone has that mindset.”
Saleh said the Jets “absolutely loved” defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey when the team’s staff coached him at the Senior Bowl and New York was comfortable signing him Tuesday to the practice squad despite the player’s past legal issues.
The 23-year-old Winfrey, a fourth-round pick of Cleveland last year, was waived by on July 19 after police opened an investigation into him being involved in an aggravated robbery incident. Fox 8 News in Cleveland reported on Oct. 31 that Winfrey would not face charges.
“Perrion’s not a bad person,” Saleh said. “Sometimes players make dumb mistakes. Sometimes they’re not good at life to start their football career, but it’s not because he’s a bad person. It’s just making silly immature decisions. So, a lot of the stuff that he’s been accused of has been wiped clean and where they’ve realized that it was all lies for him."
NOTES: The Jets held a walkthrough practice session but neither LB Chazz Surratt (ankle) nor OL Billy Turner (finger) participated. Saleh said Turner's injury, which was initially characterized as a hand ailment, is “concerning” and the team would see how he feels through the week.
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