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Zach Wilson’s two-touchdown half had social media and the NFL buzzing

New York Jets’ Zach Wilson throws during the first half of a preseason NFL football game.
New York Jets’ Zach Wilson throws during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Morry Gash, Associated Press

Zach Wilson built upon a good NFL preseason debut with an even better, crisper second act, as the former BYU quarterback threw the first two touchdowns of his career in the New York Jets’ 23-14 preseason win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

After throwing for 63 yards and leading a field goal drive in the Jets’ preseason opener, Wilson completed 9 of 11 passes for 128 yards and led New York to scores on three of his four drives against Green Bay.

“His process is light-years ahead of what a normal rookie’s process would be,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters about Wilson after the game. “... The results, sometimes will be good, sometimes will be bad, and he’s just got to continue to find ways to get better when he sees both.”

A look at each of Wilson’s drives vs. Green Bay

  • New York opened the game with an eight-play, 49-yard drive that led to a 53-yard Matt Ammendola field goal. Wilson found himself in a quick hole on the game’s third play and facing a third-and-8, but he ripped a 24-yard pass to Corey Davis across the middle for a first down. The Jets went 1 of 2 on third downs on the drive, with Wilson’s only incompletion of the drive coming on a third-and-4, leading to the field goal.
  • The Jets’ second possession was the only nonscoring one under Wilson’s leadership. New York went 20 yards on five plays and while Wilson completed two short passes, the drive stalled after three straight runs, including a run for no gain on a third-and-1.
  • Wilson led his first touchdown drive on New York’s next possession, a six-play, 65-yard drive. Wilson again faced an early third down — a third-and-2 — and he again turned to Davis for a 14-yard gain to convert and keep the drive alive. On the next play, Wilson hung in the pocket before rolling and finding Davis deep downfield for a 27-yard gain to the Green Bay 16. Three plays later, he stuck in the pocket and threw to tight end Tyler Kroft, who caught the pass near the goal line, then spun off a tackle attempt for an 18-yard touchdown.

After Green Bay’s second touchdown briefly gave the Packers a 14-10 lead, Wilson and the Jets were set up in prime field position with a 73-yard kickoff return from Corey Ballentine. On the third play of the drive, Wilson again hit Kroft for an 18-yard touchdown. This time, Wilson rolled out left, hit Kroft around the 15 and the tight end weaved his way for the touchdown that gave New York a 17-14 lead going into the half.

Reaction to Wilson’s performance

“I had a blast,” Wilson said in his postgame press conference. “It was just another day of being able to get out here, get some live looks and get that stadium feel. I had fun going through the whole process again.”

Davis, a free-agent signee this offseason previously of Tennessee, showed a nice rhythm with Wilson, as he had four receptions for 70 yards on six targets.

Wilson ended the game with a 154.7 QB rating. Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers sat out the game and said during the broadcast on NFL Network, “He can throw the heck out of it.” Wilson said Rodgers talked to him at halftime and after the game, giving him pointers on both positive things and spots the rookie could improve, per The Athletic’s Connor Hughes.

Wilson was trending on Twitter after the performance.