During the 2020 college football season when Zach Wilson was putting up strong numbers against a BYU schedule knocked for its lack of Power Five opponents, one phrase that kept creeping into social realms was whether the former Cougar passed the eye test.
Flash forward to now, and the eye test will again be used to judge Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft by the New York Jets.
Wilson is coming off a 128-yard, two-touchdown effort in one half of play in the Jets’ 23-14 preseason win over Green Bay last Saturday. The Utah native had a QB rating of 154.7 and led New York to scores on three of his four possessions.
While Wilson did not face the full force of the Packers’ No. 1 defense — he won’t be able to prove himself against a team’s full contingent of defensive starters until the regular season begins — the performance still drew the attention of plenty around the NFL world.
Wilson passing the eye test ‘with flying colors’
CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin discussed the eye test as it pertains to Wilson in ranking the rookie quarterbacks during the preseason. Wilson is No. 1 in his rankings released Monday morning (note that Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall draft pick, plays Monday night).
“Preseason stats are pretty darn meaningless. But the eye test is not,” Benjamin wrote. “And Wilson is passing it with flying colors. Not only did the BYU product produce an efficient stat line in New York’s win, but he once again showcased the fluid, flick-of-the-wrist arm talent that convinced the Jets to draft him No. 2 overall. Maybe, in real games, he’ll throw himself into trouble, but he sure as heck seems capable of throwing himself out of it, too. This guy made some magic in limited Week 2 action, and he’s got the stuff to make more.”
What others said about Wilson’s game against Green Bay
NFL.com draft expert Chad Reuter gave Wilson’s effort against the Packers a B+ grade.
“Wilson double-clutched his initial dump-off to the flat, but his only other poor pass was on a bootleg, throwing to the feet of an open receiver,” Reuter wrote. “The rookie exploited Green Bay’s reserves throughout the rest of the first half with strong, tight throws to all parts of the field. … Wilson was patient in the pocket, as well, waiting for routes to open and giving his receiver a chance to make a play.”
The Athletic’s Connor Hughes praised Wilson’s ability to make plays when things went off script, a trait he became known for at BYU.
“He actually seemed at his best when the play broke down and he had to revert to backyard football,” Hughes wrote. “... Wilson’s most impressive play (a 27-yard strike to Corey Davis) came when things didn’t go as planned. There was a miscommunication with the running back and pressure in his face from the left side. Wilson moved right, kept his eyes down the field, found Davis open on a wheel route, and delivered a laser. It was fun to watch.”
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski was among several national reporters who highlighted Wilson’s arm strength.
“The 22-year-old’s arm talent was obvious. Wilson threw ropes while on the move, feathered passes between defenders and ripped tosses into windows. The Jets staff was more impressed with how the rookie handled the offense and how quickly he’s come along in a short amount of time,” Sobleski wrote.
Wilson bringing some excitement to Jets franchise
For an organization looking to make the postseason for the first time in a decade, the New York Post’s Steve Serby said Wilson is giving Jets fans something to be excited about.
“There will be throws from Zach Wilson that will compel Jets fans to make a Lambeau Leap out of their seats and belt out a chorus of J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS. And there will be moments when Zach Wilson will remind everyone that the regular season brings a rude awakening for rookie franchise quarterbacks,” Serby wrote.
“... Zach Wilson didn’t unleash any wow moments, but even a cheesehead might agree that he unveiled that it factor that caused (Jets) general manager Joe Douglas and (coach Robert) Saleh to fall head over heels for him.”