The obligatory growing pains will be maddening, they always are for the long-suffering Jets faithful who yearn for immediate gratification, but have learned the hard way that immediate-gratification quarterbacks are the exception rather than the rule.
There will be throws from Zach Wilson that will compel Jets fans to make a Lambeau Leap out of their seats and belt out a chorus of J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS. And there will be moments when Zach Wilson will remind everyone that the regular season brings a rude awakening for rookie franchise quarterbacks.
The Kid’s NFL debut is three weeks away. The start of a new era in Jets history is three weeks away. A showdown with Sam Darnold is three weeks away.
Bring on the Panthers?
Bring on Darnold?
Not so fast.
But guess what?
Zach Wilson (9-for-11, 128 yards, two touchdowns to tight end Tyler Kroft, 154.7 passer rating) showed enormous promise and growth in the four first-half series of his second preseason start, and head coach Robert Saleh, a 23-14 winner, didn’t particularly care that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, the best man at his wedding, rested his starting defense.
The kid looked like he were playing in a park instead of iconic Lambeau Field.
Zach WilsonGetty Images
Zach Wilson didn’t unleash any wow moments, but even a cheesehead might agree that he unveiled that it factor that caused general manager Joe Douglas and Saleh to fall head over heels for him.
Wilson met his idol, Aaron Rodgers, on the field afterward and received some tips from the Packers quarterback then and at halftime.
“He can throw the heck out of it,” Rodgers said.
“It means a lot to me that he’s just able to reach out,” Wilson said.
He already has a connection with his No. 1 receiver Corey Davis, the way Darnold maybe had once upon a time with Robby Anderson.
In the meantime, the report card on Wilson on Saturday at Lambeau Field against the Packers — his last rodeo on the road before Darnold and the Panthers welcome him to Charlotte, N.C., on September 12:
“I had a blast,” Wilson said.
ARM TALENT (ACCURACY and ARM STRENGTH): A 24-yard laser on a post to Davis on the opening field-goal drive was picture-perfect. Rodgers would have approved. His worst throw came on the TD drive on his third series, when he rolled right and threw somewhere near Davis’ feet.
DECISION-MAKING: Sharp on the first drive, got the ball out of his hand after looking elsewhere for a second-and-7 screen right from the shotgun to RB Tevin Coleman that lost a yard, then a flawless play-action toss to Trevon Wesco along the right sideline for 17 yards.
VISION: Wilson looked left before finding Kroft with his first TD pass of the preseason, an 18-yard strike on that third series.
After that, trusted ESPN football analyst Dan Orlovsky tweeted: “Loved three things by @ZachWilson on TD throw snaps his eyes to #2 in progression right-to-left-DECISIVE/REACTIONARY
2-took a little off the ball tempo wise to get up over LBs/allow TE to adjust/gather himself
3-placed ball back-shoulder to avoid bigger hit off FS”
POCKET PRESENCE: Wilson stood tall in the pocket and didn’t seem flustered by the rush. He looked every bit of 6-foot-2.
RESILIENCE: Following his errant low throw to Davis, Wilson kept backpedaling on third-and-3 as he waited for someone to come open downfield, and finally Davis did, and he hit him over the middle for 14 yards. Then he faked a handoff and when the Packers’ secondary lost Davis’ whereabouts, Wilson found him wide open near the right sideline for 27 yards. “He’s a great player,” Wilson said. “I just have a lot of trust in him and all his 1-on-1 routes that he’s gonna get open and I hope he’s got trust I’m gonna get him the ball.” Then Wilson got Kroft the ball for six.
IMPROVISATION: The much-ballyhooed off-platform throws were kept in mothballs.
MOBILITY: Wilson moved effortlessly to his left before leading Kroft perfectly on their second 18-yard TD connection. “Zach had great touch on the ball today,” Kroft said. Wilson is fearless utilizing his legs on scrambles, but he isn’t playing against Coastal Carolina anymore. Discretion is the better part of valor — especially in preseason.
POISE: Lots of it.
COMMAND: Lots of it. Wilson has a good grasp of the offense and it probably didn’t hurt having offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur on the sideline with him. “His process is light years ahead of what a normal rookie’s process will be,” Saleh said.
Bring on the Panthers?
Bring on Sam Darnold?
Everybody chill. It’s preseason. Matt LaFleur didn’t play Jaire Alexander or Za’Darius Smith, for starters. Saleh — and Wilson — should have thanked him.
But hey: Give the kid three more weeks, and who the hell knows? If Jets fans can’t dream now, then when?