The New York Jets are sitting at 5-3, which is one of the more surprising storylines from the 2022 NFL season.
However, not everything is clicking for Gang Green at the moment. The main focus? Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. After coming back from his preseason knee injury, Wilson has put up some interesting numbers in his five starts. While the Jets are 4-1 in those games, Wilson has completed just 54.9% of his passes for 1,048 yards, 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Even more glaring are his numbers when pressured. Throwing from a clean pocket this season, Wilson has completed 72.6% of his passes, according to charting data from Pro Football Focus. Diving deeper, when operating without pressure, Wilson has throw for two touchdowns, without an interception. Furthermore, his Adjusted Completion Percentage (ACP) when clean this year is 82.2%, eighth-best in the league.
When pressured in the pocket the picture changes. Dramatically. Under pressure this season, Wilson has completed just 9 of 47 passes — 19.1% of his throws when pressured — for 141 yards and a touchdown. That completion percentage is dead-last among 40 qualified passers, according to PFF.
All five of his interceptions this year have come when pressured, including three this past weekend against the New England Patriots in the Jets’ loss.
Wilson’s ACP this year under duress, according to PFF’s data? 33.3%, also ranking Wilson 40th among 40 qualified quarterbacks.
The young quarterback’s struggles have led to some rumbling about his long-term future in New York. Head coach Robert Saleh addressed those questions earlier this week, stating that despite his struggles on Sunday against the Patriots, Wilson is their quarterback this season, for better or worse.
Things do not get easier for the Jets this week, as they square off with the 6-1 Buffalo Bills. But ahead of that game Wilson got perhaps an unexpected endorsement.
From Josh Allen.
Appearing on Kyle Brandt’s Basement, as he does each week, the Bills quarterback was asked about Wilson and his recent struggles:
As Allen notes, he himself threw a trio of interceptions against the Patriots once, back during his second season. During the 2019 campaign the 3-0 Bills took on the 3-0 Patriots, and while anticipation was high that the Bills would close the gap on New England in that game, Allen threw three interceptions as the Bills lost 16-10.
On two of those interceptions from 2019, you can see exactly what Allen is talking about. At the end of the first quarter, Allen faces some pressure in the pocket and tries a throw off his back foot in the direction of Zay Jones.
The throw does not reach Allen’s intended target:
Then in the third quarter, Allen breaks out of the pocket and tries to make something happen, again targeting Jones late in the play.
Once more J.C. Jackson ends up with the football in his hands:
Both of these plays are prime examples of what Allen discusses above, and trying to do too much with the football. Now fast-forward to this past Sunday, as Wilson takes on the Patriots. On this third-down play from the second quarter, Wilson faces pressure off the right edge and tries to hit running back Ty Johnson on a shallow route. But he makes the throw off his back foot, and it is off target and intercepted:
Then later in the game, Wilson flushes out of the pocket to his right, and forces a throw late in the down that is intercepted by safety Devin McCourty:
Watching these plays, you can understand while Allen drew the comparison himself.
As Allen said it, everything clicked for him after that game against the Patriots, specifically trying not to do to much with the football. “It took me a while to kinda understand the nuances of this game and trying not to do too much.”
Jets fans are hoping and praying that Wilson has the same kind of career arc that Allen has put together. While that might seem outlandish, consider this. Allen finished his rookie season, 12 games, posting an ACP of 49.4% when pressured, according to PFF.
Which was 39th in the league out of 39 qualified passers.
It might not be much, but it could offer some hope for Jets fans that better days are ahead.