GREEN BAY, Wis. — Another test, another passing grade for Zach Wilson.
In fact, this one was an A-plus for the Jets’ rookie quarterback.
Wilson looked NFL-ready in his second preseason game, completing 9 of 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets’ 23-14 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday. Wilson read the field well, made a pretty, off-balance throw and never seemed flustered. The only knock was the level of competition faced. The Packers rested nearly all of their starters, just as the Giants did a week earlier in Wilson’s first preseason game.
Let’s not put him in Canton just yet, but the Jets and their fans should feel encouraged by how Wilson looked in his second time facing a live defense.
Though the competition was not top-notch, Wilson showed promising traits. He made good decisions, progressed through his reads and led the Jets to three scores in four series. Wilson showed a connection with top receiver Corey Davis (four catches, 70 yards) and hooked up with tight end Tyler Kroft for two touchdown passes.
Wilson showed what kind of day it was going to be on his second pass of the game. He hit Davis for a 24-yard gain to convert a third-and-8. That drive stalled and the Jets got a 54-yard field goal from Matt Ammendola for a 3-0 lead.
The Jets did not do much on their second drive, but Wilson got hot on his third series. He found Davis for a 14-yard gain, then made his best throw of the day. He rolled slightly left, worked his eyes across the field and found Davis wide open along the right sideline. Without having his feet set, Wilson winged a 27-yard pass to the Packers’ 16-yard line.
Three plays later, Wilson again went off his first read and found Kroft in the middle of the field for an 18-yard touchdown, his first touchdown pass of the preseason.
Kick returner Corey Ballentine set up Wilson’s fourth drive with a 73-yard kickoff return to the Green Bay 30. After two 6-yard runs by Ty Johnson, Wilson again connected with Kroft for an 18-yard touchdown and a 17-14 Jets lead with 1:53 left in the first half. That ended Wilson’s day.
Though Wilson was a reason to smile for the Jets, the team’s defense had some issues against the Packers’ backups. Neither Aaron Rodgers nor Jordan Love played, and third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert looked way too comfortable against the Jets’ starting defense.
Benkert led two touchdown drives in the first half while the Jets’ starters were on the field. Green Bay opened with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with rookie running back Kylin Hill running around the outside of the Jets’ defense and avoiding a tackle by John Franklin-Myers for a 12-yard touchdown.
The Jets again got picked apart by Benkert on a 19-play, 81-yard drive that was aided by a holding call against C.J. Mosley on third down. Benkert picked on rookie cornerback Isaiah Dunn, who was in for Bless Austin. Benkert then threw a pretty touchdown pass to Jace Sternberger, who found an opening between safety Marcus Maye and cornerback Bryce Hall.
After losing defensive end Carl Lawson for the season in a joint practice with the Packers on Thursday, it appears the Jets may have sustained another serious injury in the game. Linebacker Jarrad Davis had to be carted to the locker room during the first half with an ankle injury. It is unclear how severe the injury is, but it did not look good.
After five days in Green Bay for two joint practices and the game, the Jets now return to New Jersey, where they will practice with the Eagles on Tuesday and Wednesday before playing Philadelphia in the final preseason game.
The Jets open the regular season against the Panthers in three weeks. On Saturday, Wilson looked like he was right on schedule.