How serious is Aaron Rodgers’ injury? What it means for the veteran Jets QB and Zach Wilson
Jets coach Robert Saleh said he fears the veteran quarterback suffered a serious Achilles injury during New York’s first drive against the Buffalo Bills
Aaron Rodgers’ first game as a New York Jet came to an abrupt end Monday night.
The four-time NFL MVP, traded to the Jets this offseason, was injured on the team’s first series of an eventual 22-16 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills. He left after taking a sack on his fourth snap.
That set a somber tone for a night that ended up in celebration, capped by an undrafted rookie returning a punt 65 yards for a walk-off touchdown as the Jets rallied from a 13-3 deficit behind a strong defensive effort.
The more long-term question, at least until there are more concrete details, remains how long embattled backup quarterback Zach Wilson, who came on in relief of Rodgers, will be in charge of New York’s offense.
The fear, according to Jets coach Robert Saleh, is that it’s a serious Achilles injury, he told reporters after the game.
“Concerned with his Achilles. MRI is probably going to confirm what we already think is going to happen, so prayers tonight. It’s not good,” Saleh said.
Rodgers will have an MRI on Tuesday, according to ESPN.
How was Aaron Rodgers hurt?
With New York facing a first-and-10 at its own 43 on its opening series, Rodgers sat in the pocket looking to pass downfield when Bills linebacker Leonard Floyd beat his blocker and made a bee-line for Rodgers from his left side.
After Lloyd sacked Rodgers for a 10-yard loss, the quarterback stood near his gathering teammates momentarily before taking a seat on the field, prompting trainers to attend to him.
Rodgers headed to the blue medical tent after the play, as seen on the ESPN broadcast, then was moved to a medical cart soon thereafter. Rodgers was later seen walking with a clear limp as he headed to the locker room, per the ESPN broadcast, and later had a boot on his left foot.
Rodgers misfired on his only pass attempt before leaving the game.
How did Zach Wilson look in relief of Aaron Rodgers?
It was a rough go offensively for both teams through much of the night. The Jets defense, though, forced four turnovers, including three Josh Allen interceptions, and helped keep the score close enough for the New York offense to wake up near the end of the game.
Wilson completed 14 of 21 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and an interception, with his most impressive drive coming in the fourth quarter.
With the Jets trailing 13-6, Wilson led an eight-play, 57-yard drive to tie the score on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, where the wide receiver tipped the pass to himself in tight coverage before reeling it in for the touchdown as he fell down.
Zach Wilson made a handful of nice plays on the drive, including connecting with Allen Lazard for a 24-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-5 play that got the Jets into Buffalo territory.
Later on the drive, Wilson threw a low dart to Garrett Wilson for a 14-yard gain on third-and-5 to set New York up with a first-and-goal at the Buffalo 9.
Zach Wilson scrambled for a 6-yard gain on first and goal, setting up the touchdown pass on the next play.
Wilson also had his struggles, as the Jets converted just 5 of 13 third-down attempts and punted the ball four times. New York also only scored three points in the first half, relying on the defense to keep them in the game.
Late in the second quarter, the Bills’ Matt Milano intercepted a Wilson pass near midfield where the quarterback failed to look off the linebacker when he was trying to connect with wide receiver Randall Cobb. That led to a Buffalo field goal just before halftime.
For however long Wilson fills in for Rodgers, with the fear it could be the remainder of the season, Wilson is focused on improving.
“My job is to close the gap, how close can I be to Aaron Rodgers. I’m going to keep working on that every single week,” Wilson told SNY’s Jeane Coakley after the game.
"My job is to close the gap and how close can I be to Aaron Rodgers. I'm going to keep working on that every single week"— Jets Videos (@snyjets) September 12, 2023
Zach Wilson spoke to @JeaneCoakley about the emotions of the Jets' win, the defense's performance, and what it was like to step in for Aaron Rodgers pic.twitter.com/LYob2Rwgpe
How did the Jets beat the Bills?
Behind a stout defensive effort, New York rallied from a 13-3 deficit and briefly took a 16-13 lead late in the fourth quarter after Allen’s fourth turnover of the night led to a Jets field goal with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Allen drove Buffalo down the field, though, and Tyler Bass hit a 50-yard field goal in off the upright with two seconds left in regulation.
That led to overtime, where Buffalo started with a three-and-out.
On the ensuing punt, Jets undrafted rookie wide receiver Xavier Gipson weaved his way for an electrifying 65-yard punt return for a touchdown to cap the comeback.
“What an unbelievable finish by the guys,” Wilson told Coakley. “So unfortunate for Aaron in the beginning, but everyone held strong, tried to focus. The defense getting four turnovers was obviously huge. We’ve got to capitalize more on those as an offense.
But then to finish like that with Xavier, a young dude who has so much talent, I’m so happy for him. Unbelievable team win.”
Why did Aaron Rodgers join the Jets?
Wilson was the team’s starting quarterback for much of the previous two seasons after New York selected the former BYU and Corner Canyon quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Wilson struggled mightily, though — he was benched twice last year — and the Jets brought in the veteran Rodgers this season via trade after he spent 18 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
The elder Rodgers has embraced being a mentor to Wilson as he tries to shake off the struggles of his early career.
“I hope this time for him is like a deep inhale and exhale and he can really take a breath and pause and deal with the disappointment of last year and the frustration, and then channel it,” Rodgers said of Wilson during training camp, per NBC Sports.
“I feel like he has, just re-channel it as a positive and focus on the opportunity in front of him to learn with a guy who loves him and cares about him and wants him to be great and wants him to do incredible things every day and be better.”
Now, it appears that mentorship role for Rodgers will include being on the sidelines guiding the young quarterback through his third pro season, instead of leading the Jets offense.