Zach Wilson Week 1 Deep Dive: Breaking down Jets rookie QB in first career start

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Zach Wilson Treated with three different Zachs
Zach Wilson Treated with three different Zachs

The Jets are 0-1 after falling to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and though there are a lot of things that need fixing from head coach Robert Saleh & Co., one of them won't be the play of Zach Wilson.

It wasn't close to perfect, but the Jets had to love how their second overall pick performed in his first career start. He finished 20-for-37 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. It wasn't pretty in the first half, but adjustments were made and he ended up with an 82.9 NFL Passer Rating.

After looking at the film and checking out the advanced numbers via Pro Football Focus, there are a lot of positives to pull out of Wilson's debut. Let's take a look...

Mobility Comes Natural

The Jets' O-line didn't help Wilson in the slightest in Week 1, as the BYU product was running for his life at times (one particular play saw him avoid four or five tackles before getting sacked). Overall, Wilson was tied with Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill for the most times sacked at six in the opener.

Also, 22 pressures were allowed by the line, which was tied for second-most in Week 1. So Wilson had to get creative outside the pocket all day, and that required him to avoid multiple defensive linemen and linebackers coming on the blitz.

He looks like a natural at it.

Check out his first touchdown throw of his career to Corey Davis for example.

Dropping back, he starts looking to the left side of the field before realizing the pocket is collapsing in the interior. Because of that, he is chased out to the right. But that recognition of the pressure and lack of panic while rolling out is huge.

Wilson's head never breaks its attention downfield and he waits for Davis to get open. He fires a strike on the run and that's six points.

Here's another look at how naturally it comes for him...

This one might not have been a completion, but just look at the quick reaction from a fast Brian Burns coming immediately off the right side. Wilson doesn’t waste time shifting to his right and booking it toward the sideline, knowing full well that Burns is hunting him down from behind.

Wilson doesn’t break stride, keeps looking downfield and just misses Davis for a big play. He even feels Burns’ pressure by picking up his feet on the dive. Very impressive.

Receivers Not Helping Matters

PFF has a specific drops stat that looks at receivers not being able to secure on-target passes from their quarterbacks.

The Jets had five drops on Sunday, which was tied for the most in the league.

When your rookie quarterback is trying to get into a rhythm and make plays, receivers need to haul the ball in. Even plays like Wilson’s deep shot to Elijah Moore that went through his hands – Jeremy Chinn contested it well and there was borderline pass interference – you’d like to see hauled in.

But the blatant drops from balls on the hands, chest plate and facemask don’t help Wilson’s cause. Hopefully it doesn’t become a theme for the offense.

Work Needs To Be Done In Play-Action

The lack of run game may have led to this, but Wilson wasn’t too good when running play-action passes. He went just 2-for-6 in those scenarios and had a 44.9 pass grade via PFF. It also didn’t help that he was pressured on five of those six attempts.

But the Jets as a whole need to work on these situations more because Wilson does some of his best work outside the pocket. It showed in preseason reps, so having that element of the offense working during the regular season would bode well for New York.

Toughness On Full Display

When you’re sacked six times and getting pressured left and right, it can be draining physically and mentally throughout a game. But Wilson only cares about moving the chains, and there’s two perfect examples of this that led to his second touchdown to Davis.

His dart to Denzel Mims that sets up the touchdown is the first. Take a look…

Mims, who had just gotten into the game, finds himself open between a zone look down the left sideline. Meanwhile, Wilson is maneuvering yet again in the pocket. As he sees Mims, he knows he’s also about to get crunched by a defensive lineman. He stands sturdy, makes the accurate play, and takes the hit. Mims does his job and makes it a red zone look for New York, their first of the game.

Then, Wilson takes a scary hit from Derrick Brown that he admitted gave him whiplash. But the very next snap comes here…

A three-step drop and perfectly thrown ball to Davis. This is extremely special but it shows the toughness that Wilson has. He was a tad shaken up but knew the job wasn’t done yet. He needed to score and did just that with a calmly thrown strike to Davis where only he could grab it.

***

The overall PFF grade of 63.2 and 61.3 for pass isn't anything special. But Wilson's first half was about as brutal as it comes. It's that resurgence in the second half and how he closes that impresses.

We'll see what he has in store rest of the way, but the first look in the regular season was a great foundational start for Wilson, whose potential looks very promising.