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John Beck: Zach Wilson inherits a better Jets team than he had in 2022

Zach Wilson, surrounded by a much better supporting cast than in his previous two years in New York, led the Jets to a 22-16 overtime victory.

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New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) looks on

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) looks on from the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Sep. 11, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Rusty Jones, Associated Press

Watching Monday Night Football from his home in Southern California, John Beck couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The former BYU star and longtime personal quarterback coach/trainer of Jets backup quarterback Zach Wilson sat stunned as medical trainers attended to his replacement, New York’s superstar acquisition Aaron Rodgers. 

On the fourth play of the Jets’ first offensive possession against Buffalo, Rodgers tore his Achilles and just like that, his season was over, and Wilson was back on the job.

“Everybody that is there to help Zach was excited for what this experience was supposed to be, in terms of a season for him to watch one of the best to ever do it, day-in and day-out,” Beck told the Y’s Guys podcast. “He got to watch him through an offseason, he got to watch him through a training camp and now he was supposed to have an opportunity to see how Aaron Rodgers does the season. We were all looking forward to this opportunity for Zach and then in a blink of an eye, it’s all shifted gears.”

Wilson, surrounded by a much better supporting cast than in his previous two years in New York, led the Jets to a 22-16 overtime victory. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

“The Jets were like, ‘If we are going to go out and bring Aaron Rodgers here, we have to make sure we put together a playoff squad around him. This isn’t a rebuild. This is like we are making a playoff run,’” Beck said. “That’s the roster that was built around Aaron and that is the same group built around Zach.”

Hall factor

The Jets celebrated the return of second-year running back Breece Hall on Monday, and no one was happier to see him than Wilson. When Hall was in the backfield with Wilson last year, the Jets went 4-0. But after an ACL tear in week seven, New York’s offense hit the skids and the Jets lost eight of the next ten games.

Hall and Wilson were back together on Monday. Hall rushed for 127 yards and, with help from four Buffalo turnovers, the Jets won the game and the tag-team improved to 5-0 when they are on the field together.

Rough road ahead

Even with the roster additions, New York’s offensive line offered little resistance to the Bills pass rushers, including the sack that ended Rodgers’ season, and now they will face the league’s best defense on Sunday at Dallas. The Cowboys dominated the Giants Sunday night with seven sacks, 12 hits on the quarterback, and two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown, in a 40-0 win.

“I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to control the pass rush of the Cowboys,” Beck said. “You have to find ways to manage that, and then figure out how you can get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. You don’t want to be asking the quarterback to be standing in that pocket for an entire game.”

Following the Cowboys, Wilson and the Jets host New England on Sept. 24 and Kansas City on Sunday night, Oct. 1. 

Rough start

Wilson was thrown into the fire in New York after being the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. As a rookie, with minimal talent around him, the former Cougar threw for 2,234 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Jets even hired Beck to work as Wilson’s personal coach.

Last year, with Beck off the staff, Wilson’s passing yards dropped to 1,688 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He missed the first three games due to an injury and the Jets benched him in Week 16.

New York traded a conditional second-round draft pick to Green Bay for Rodgers in April, believing he could lead them to the Super Bowl, while at the same time, work as a mentor to Wilson. The injury on Monday threatened any potential championship run, but it sped up Wilson’s opportunity for redemption.

“Zach is in a great place personally,” Beck said. “He is in a very confident place. He is in a good spot, so we’ll let him roll and see how it goes.”

Zach vs. Dak

For Beck, who teaches quarterbacks how to the play the game, Sunday’s Jets-Cowboys matchup pits two of his finest clients against each other — Wilson and Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott.

“I’ve been in this before when I have two guys playing against each other who I train and spend time with,” Beck said. “I want both to do well. I am by no means sitting there rooting for one over the other. I just want to see good performances by both and then however it shakes down, it shakes down. The end goal would be that both play solid games, make good decisions, and stay healthy.”

Prescott, in his eighth season, is trying to keep the Cowboys convinced he can lead them to a Super Bowl. Wilson, in his third year, faces an uphill battle convincing heartbroken Jets fans he can lead them through the weekend.

Fortunately for both quarterbacks, they each have a defense capable of keeping them in every game and their career aspirations alive.