BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Al Pereira/Getty Images)
We can campaign for Mike White to start as the Jets quarterback while we wait for Zach Wilson to come back from injured reserve. We may even get our wish on Sunday if Joe Flacco struggles to put points on the scoreboard against the Cleveland Browns.
We can hope White engineers the Jets to a turnaround.
We can even be delusional and hope White becomes the next Joe Namath or Kurt Warner.
But know this: The Jets turnaround hinges on Wilson to be productive and healthy. There was a reason they drafted him as the No. 2 overall pick. There was a reason they moved on from Sam Darnold. They invested in him to be the franchise cornerstone.
Wilson is a mystery right now for a franchise that needs answers as soon as possible. No one knows if he can be an NFL quarterback. No one knows if he can stay healthy forever.
Jets fans want to feel optimistic about him. The Jets have tried hard not to say anything bad about him as a quarterback.
This all sounds good, but if the second-year quarterback does not give great moments or be healthy, the quarterback will continue to be a riddle that haunts this woebegone franchise and there will likely be another new administration finding the next Joe Namath.
Wilson was what anyone expected out of a rookie quarterback. He showed promise yet plenty of head-scratching moments with him under center. It was really hard to judge.
This is why this season is an important year of his development. It’s time to see how much he has improved from his first season. It’s time to find out if he figured it out on how to call plays on his own.
The Jets need to know if he can command the huddle. This has to be the year he needs to know how to do the little things that can make him an elite quarterback.
Wilson never really had much pressure last season since the team was so bad. The Jets needed playmakers and a better offensive line for him to succeed. They addressed it by drafting Garrett Wilson to form a triple-receiving threat with Braxton Berrios and Elijah Moore. Michael Carter continues to develop as a running back to help the Jets quarterback to do well. As for the offensive line, it’s a work in progress.
Already, Wilson started his second season with a setback. In the Jets’ first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he suffered a knee injury by hurting his right knee when he decided to scramble for a first down rather than throwing from the pocket. It was just one of those things that happened. He wasn’t even tackled, either. This should certainly raise questions about his durability after he missed four games with a knee injury (the same right knee he injured in the preseason) last season. Let’s not forget he was injury-prone at BYU when he was playing with a shoulder injury.
The sophomore quarterback was fortunate enough not to have a ACL or MCL injury. It would have sidelined him for the season, and it would have created such a mess with the Jets quarterback situation.
When he comes back, the Jets should get a good read on him. He should be back around October. This means he will have enough games to show his worth as long as he stays healthy. His durability is going to be a question mark now and for the rest of his career.
When healthy, Wilson showed glimpses of what he can do. Despite throwing 11 interceptions in the 13 games he played as a rookie, he also threw nine touchdowns and most importantly, he went without an interception
Wilson still needs to know how to read defenses and improve his accuracy. This will come through repetition. This is where he needed all the work this training camp, joint practices and preseason games to have him tune up for the season.
When he comes back, it will take three or four games until the Jets have a feel of what he does. This is if he does not get injured again by then.
His durability is actually more of an issue than his development. Despite Wilson’s struggles, he can improve by working on it. His durability is something he can’t do. If he gets hurt, there’s nothing he can do.
If he gets hurt often, then he becomes useless and the Jets may have to search for another quarterback. Who knows if Jets general manager Joe Douglas will get another chance? There’s a good chance Jets owner Woody Johnson will likely want to hire another guy to run the Jets football operations. Let’s remember it was Chris Johnson, Woody’s brother, that hired Douglas. Right now, Chris Johnson’s hires of Robert Saleh and Douglas don’t look that good based on the Jets record.
Everything is riding on Wilson here. Like last season, this season is about him. Those questions about Wilson’s health and productivity will determine where the Jets go from there heading to the offseason and next season.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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