After a painful and ugly outing vs. New England, Zach Wilson led his offense to a win against the Buffalo Bills. That’s right, the NY Jets beat the Buffalo Bills as double-digit underdogs at home. This improves Wilson’s record as a starter to 5-1 this season, but what next for him following the bye?
When reviewing his performance this past week, it's fair to say that this is some reply coming off the catastrophe against New England that ended in three interceptions.
There have often been games in quarterbacks' careers where a poor performance turns a fanbase from support of their QB to a strong belief against him being the future of their franchise.
Wilson’s outing against New England last week appeared to be that game. After the loss, heavy criticism, which was wholly justified, circulated around social media and news outlets.
It suddenly became the consensus that he was the leash holding this team back from being a playoff contender amongst the media and fanbase.
Of course, after a disappointing loss there are constantly varying levels of overreaction to what was a shocking performance, there were many sensible takes regarding Wilson’s future, whilst also many calls for Mike White to start began infesting 'Jets' Twitter…I may have found my new pet peeve.
Post-match, it was not only fan frustration that Wilson faced but also media criticism. It was evident in his reaction following the Patriots' loss that he knew he had cost the Jets the game.
Zach Wilson responded to the criticism against the Bills
So, the response. Buffalo is not the game any quarterback would want after coming off a poor performance, but it is fair to say the Jets stunned much of the NFL with a season-altering showing.
Matching up against one of the league’s best defenses, Zach Wilson looked like a changed player from the one that faced New England. Playing some of his best football as a New York Jet and was an important factor in helping secure the upset over their division rivals.
Although the past few weeks have been some rollercoaster for Wilson, the underlying trend amongst his play, is that he has been a solid game manager, but a poor quarterback when the reliance is on him to chase the game.
Although we have seen flashes on certain drives, we have not yet seen him dominate through a whole game consistently as a quarterback. So looking at his play in more depth, there are a few things that catch the eye when reviewing his film.
This first is mechanics. So far this season, although there have been a few good examples, Wilson’s mechanics have mostly been messy and ugly. One of the most recent moments of this was Wilson’s first interception against the Patriots.
As you can see from the clip, this is one of Wilson’s worst throws as a pro. Matthew Judon was able to get up in Wilson’s face and an inaccurate throw culminates in an interception.
Here, you see Wilson with an opportunity to hit Ty Johnson on the shallow cross, a moment's hesitation and Wilson is under pressure. After the initial hesitation, Wilson then delivers a throw in which the mechanics are quite frankly unacceptable. Wilson is falling away on the back foot, there is no base set, and no rotation.
His back foot is also a huge issue. If you watch the best quarterbacks in the NFL, you see them load their back leg with their weight to then use that to gain power on the throw as they rotate through. If you look at Wilson at his release you can see that his back foot is not loaded, nor on the floor.
For even a rookie QB to have mechanics this poor, which is then backed up by the fact that this throw sailed over the head of Ty Johnson, is worrying. The shambolic mechanics and often throwing motion Wilson has displayed as an NFL quarterback can also be attributed to his confidence and his struggles under pressure.
After all, his college tape displays gorgeous throws with good technique. He was the No. 2 overall pick for a reason. But if Wilson is to live up to that standard, this is an area of his game that needs serious cleanup.
The throws he makes with good technique are far too sporadic and it can be a struggle to watch Wilson looking uncomfortable on the field.
2. Decision Making
I touched on it when discussing Wilson’s mechanics, but decision-making is another aspect of Wilson’s game that he needs to improve upon if he is to assert himself as the future of the Jets franchise.
A prime example of this is the video above. Wilson has been praised for his ability to extend plays out of the pocket. During this play, he rolls out and has the opportunity to hit Jeff Smith for a short completion, but a moment's hesitation and Wilson, though I'm sure in part frustration, delivers a lazy throw downfield in slight desperation.
These forced throws are not what Jets fans want to see. It is this aspect of decision-making that would help Wilson out so much if it were improved. Countless times he forces the deep ball and hesitates on an easy completion to move the chains underneath.
3. Performance under pressure
This is the final factor in what has been three of the core reasons Wilson has struggled. I find it fascinating how they all tie into each other in true football nerd style, but Wilson’s performance under pressure is undoubtedly a big cause for concern. This is a claim which is fully validated through statistics also.
Wilson has completed just 11-of-52 passes when under pressure this season. The difference is staggering. Wilson is a top-five QB in terms of efficiency when throwing from a clean pocket. Yet, the worst in the NFL by some distance.
Don’t get me wrong, Wilson is such a talented player. Part of the frustration is that he can go drives where he looks like a top NFL QB and others where he doesn’t look like a starter in this league. Sadly the latter has been a more common occurrence than the former.
As the Jets come off their bye this week, Wilson faces a huge passage of games in his Jets career. He has the opportunity to solidify his place with New York Jets if he is able to just tighten his game that one level further and find the consistency he so badly needs.
It is all down to him now as he seeks to lead the Jets out of their 11-year playoff drought. His next challenge will be on the road against the Patriots.