Zach Wilson’s season debut for the New York Jets on Sunday came with a bonus: the second-year pro spearheaded a comeback 24-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
New York trailed 20-10 early in the fourth quarter before Wilson — returning from a meniscus tear and bone bruise in his right knee — and the Jets mounted a rally to push their record to 2-2 on the season.
Wilson showed some rust — he completed just 8 of 24 passes in the game’s first three quarters, and New York went six straight possessions without a point during one stretch. In the fourth quarter, though, he completed 10 of 12 passes, including 5 of 5 on the go-ahead touchdown drive, for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson finished the day completing 18 of 36 passes for 252 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while also catching a short touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Here’s a sampling of what national experts thought of his debut performance.
Did Zach Wilson show the ability to be a closer?
The most successful NFL quarterbacks from BYU and Utah, Steve Young and Alex Smith, discussed the former Cougar’s day against the Steelers during ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.”
Young believes he showed what it takes to be considered a closer.
“That feels like that’s one of his best talents, and that’s one thing you can’t teach — patience, getting the job done. He made a lot of big-time throws in the fourth quarter,” Young said.
“In my mind, here you go with the game on the line and the talent starts to come out. That’s the image I want of a closing type of quarterback.”
Smith, too, praised Wilson for his fourth-quarter finish after a shaky start.
“He did some immature things there in the first half, but he made some throws and some plays with the game on the line,” Smith said. “Those two touchdown drives at the end, I thought … showed a lot of growth. You saw why they took him with the second overall pick.”
How did Zach Wilson compare to other young quarterback this week?
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the Week 4 effort of six NFL quarterbacks who were draft picks in the past two years and played this week.
In addition to Wilson, that included Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, Chicago’s Justin Fields, Houston’s Davis Mills, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and New England’s Bailey Zappe.
Wilson earned the highest grade with a B-minus.
“Wild ride from Wilson in this contest, his first action of the 2022 regular season,” Trapasso wrote.
“He had some insane escapes from inside the pocket and flashed his arm talent throughout. But he also had a few misfires on easy throws. Overall, a solid outing, on the road, against what’s been a stingy defense.”
Was Zach Wilson’s pocket navigation an issue?
The Athletic’s Robert Mays and Diante Lee were both critical of Wilson’s pocket navigation during the latest edition of The Athletic Football Show podcast.
“Obviously, he’s still got to work on his pocket navigation,” Lee said. “You still have some issues with bailing out of the back end of the pocket, turning a five-step drop into a 13-step drop, trying to get away from pressure.
“(He’s) still not obviously positioning himself where he can take advantage of what (coaches) are trying to draw up for him.”
As for what Wilson showed strictly as a passer, Lee was a bit more forgiving.
“If we’re looking at quality of throws, for the most part, especially from where he was early last season, I think that you can see a little bit of the dream of what the Jets are trying to sell us on what Zach Wilson might be,” Lee said.
Did Zach Wilson show some traits of a franchise quarterback?
SNY.tv’s Bart Scott, a former NFL linebacker, applauded Wilson for his work behind what is becoming a patchwork offensive line for the Jets — on Sunday, Max Mitchell became the latest New York offensive tackle to go down with an injury.
“He showed a lot of character, he showed a little rust, he had some throws that he would like back. But all in all, with the chaos in front of him, linemen going down … and he still came out victorious,” Scott said.
How will the Jets’ mounting line injuries and the Dolphins up next impact Zach Wilson?
Fox Sports’ Warren Sharp cautioned that Wilson struggled when he faced a blitz against the Steelers.
“The Steelers blitzed him on 30% of his dropbacks, which was ninth-most in the NFL last week. And when he was blitzed, he was the most sensitive QB to it in the NFL,” Sharp wrote.
“He ranked 33rd of 34 quarterbacks in efficiency against the blitz, but fifth of 34 QBs in efficiency when not blitzed.”
Next up for Wilson and the Jets is Miami, a team that over the past two weeks has blitzed 30% of the time and has the second-highest pressure rate in the league, creating pressure on 42% of the opposition’s dropbacks, Sharp said.
“Against a strong Dolphins pass rush, Zach Wilson could again be running for his life on Sunday,” Sharp wrote.
Can Zach Wilson be more than just a ‘one-hit wonder’?
The New York Post’s Steve Serby took a forward-looking approach to analyzing Wilson’s first game of the season, saying he needs to show that Sunday’s game won’t just be a “one-hit wonder.”
“Wilson gave the fan base only flashes as a rookie, beating the Titans early and outdueling Trevor Lawrence late, but he raised the bar when he was at his best when his best was required on Sunday,” Serby wrote.
“By no means does it automatically signal the official start of a second-year leap, but it allows the franchise and its long-suffering loyalists to spend this week dreaming.”
Serby credited Wilson for the poise he showed in the contest, while also making his teammates better.
“What he did at the end was what franchise quarterbacks are mandated to do: Elevate those around him. His offensive line was decimated and furiously reshuffled, but Wilson stood tall in the pocket and surveyed the field and delivered with accuracy and overcame it. If football is a game of flinches, Wilson was playing a different game,” Serby wrote.