Former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson finds himself in a pretty dire situation with the New York Jets right now.
Never mind the fact that, through three games into the 2021 season, the winless Jets are averaging under 7 points per game.
The advanced analytics paint an even bleaker picture for the NFL rookie and No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft on a Jets team that is being led by a first-year offensive coordinator (Mike LaFleur) and was rebuilt along the offensive line and at skill positions after a miserable 2020 season.
Advanced analytics show why the New York Jets are struggling offensively
Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise noted:
- Wilson has been sacked 15 times so far in 2021, worst in the NFL and on pace to break the single-season sack record (David Carr was sacked 76 times in 2002). Even accounting for the NFL adding a 17th game this season, Wilson would still break the single-season record in 16 games — he’s on pace to be sacked 85 times.
- Wilson is getting sacked 12.5% of the time when he drops back to pass. That sack percentage is 0.7% above the next-worst percentage (11.8%, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow) among NFL quarterbacks with 75 or more passes so far in 2021.
- The average time Wilson has had to either get a pass off or for the pocket to collapse is 1.7 seconds, per Gang Green Nation’s David Wyatt-Hupton.
- That doesn’t completely absolve the rookie quarterback, though. Wilson leads the NFL in sacks that took more than 4.5 seconds from snap to tackle with eight, according to Next Gen Stats. That is one ahead of fellow rookie Justin Fields of Chicago. Fields’ seven such sacks, though, come on just 46 dropbacks, while Wilson’s eight sacks that took 4.5 seconds or more came on 120 dropbacks.
- Noting that Wilson is the lone QB to play a snap for the team this year, the Jets are getting pressured 33.6% of the times per dropback, worst in the league and more than 2% worse than the next two worst teams — Denver and Indianapolis.
- Wilson has been hurried 18 times this season, tied for second-most in the NFL.
- Wilson, who has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, is completing 55.2% of his passes through three games — he and fellow rookie Trevor Lawrence of Jacksonville (54.2%) are the only two quarterbacks to start multiple games and have a completion percentage under 60%.
- Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage, which takes into account drops and other such things, is 70.4%, according to The Athletic’s Connor Hughes.
- The Jets tie for fourth-worst in the NFL in dropped passes (8), per Pro Football Reference. New York’s drop percentage — which accounts for number of drops against pass attempts excluding spikes and throwaways — is 7.8%, also tied for fourth worst.
What others are saying
Carr, now an analyst for the NFL Network, said “Wilson has everything you want in a franchise quarterback, and I’ve seen some good things from him early, despite poor results,” while pointing out some of the obstacles the Jets offense is facing right now.
“In addition to a rookie quarterback, New York also has a rookie offensive coordinator. There’s a reason (Jets first-year coach) Robert Saleh brought Mike LaFleur with him to New York; the offensive system LaFleur learned under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco is meant to put the offense one step ahead of the defense,” Carr wrote. “But that’s not what I’m seeing from the Jets right now. Based on my own experience as a rookie QB, I’m guessing this is because Wilson is watching film on the sideline and making adjustments after the fact — and then by the time he gets out there again, the defense has already changed.
Hughes wrote that the Jets need to give greater support to Wilson, something they failed to do with his predecessor, Sam Darnold.
“Wilson, like Darnold, is doing it all himself. The offensive line is awful,” Hughes wrote. “It’s allowing an average of five sacks a game and that doesn’t include the alarming number of times Wilson avoids the sack, but is still pummeled and peeled off the field by his teammates like a bug off a windshield. The receivers don’t create separation. When they do, and Wilson finds them, they drop passes. Corey Davis, paid to be the Jets’ No. 1, dropped at least two on Sunday.
“... Through three games, Wilson is completing 55.2% of his passes. His adjusted completion percentage for the year is 70.4%. That’s beyond alarming. The faces are different. The results are not.”
USA Today’s Andy Vasquez echoed a similar tone when addressing what needs to happen next for the moribund Jets.
“The biggest problem, from top to bottom, is that the Jets need to stop talking about having Wilson’s back and actually show it on the field,” Vasquez wrote. “Jets pass-catchers already have eight drops this season. Instead of missing easy plays, they need to start making the tough ones.
“The line needs to give him more time to throw and more room for the running game to operate. LaFleur must do a better job of finding easy yards with his play calls. It doesn’t all have to come together at once. But it must start coming together, now. Before it’s too late.”
What’s up next for the Jets
New York’s first three opponents — Carolina, New England and Denver — all currently rank in the top five defenses in yards allowed this season. The Jets’ next two opponents, meanwhile, are Tennessee and Atlanta, two teams who rank in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed per play.
“We’re three games in and it’s round 1 of a 15-round fight,” Saleh said, per Vasquez. “It’s not like our faces are broken or anything, we just got to continue to work and try to find a way to get better.”