NY Jets setting higher expectations for Zach Wilson in 2022

NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson / Al Pereira/GettyImages

With Year 1 in the books, NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will shoulder more responsibility in 2022 as he makes his case for becoming the team's franchise quarterback.

In a raucous introduction to MetLife Stadium, Wilson was nearly booed off the field early in the 2021 season after throwing seven picks in the first three games.

He can't afford to make the same mistakes this year, when the stakes are much higher and fans' "BUST" signs haven't yet accumulated dust in garages.

Head coach Robert Saleh spoke about what the team expects from Wilson in Year 2 and suggested that the Jets may be tightening his "leash" a bit more.

In other words: No pressure, but you've got to perform, kid.

Wilson's "process" last season involved learning the Jets offensive scheme and developing chemistry with new targets like Elijah Moore. As with most rookie quarterbacks, Wilson experienced his fair share of setbacks and also missed time due to injury, but he finished the season on a relatively high note.

In 2021, Wilson threw for 2,334 yards and nine touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 13 games, completing 55 percent of his passes. What those numbers don't reveal, though, is Wilson's encouraging growth from Week 1 to Week 17.

NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has everything to prove in Year 2

Wilson didn't record a single interception in the last five games of the season, and his most impressive game was arguably against Tom Brady's Buccaneers in Week 17, when Wilson looked the most comfortable in the pocket and kept the Jets offense humming against one of the best defenses in the league.

His critics will remain plentiful and pitiless — Pro Football Focus ranked Wilson fifth overall in rookie quarterback performances, giving even Justin Fields and Trey Lance nods before him.

Yet given how Wilson responded to adversity in Year 1, fans and coaches should expect him to perform better in Year 2, when he hopefully has an improved supporting cast.

Last season, Wilson was playing without his franchise left tackle, and regular special-teamer Braxton Berrios somehow became his top receiver by the end of the year.

Both the offensive line and wide receiver units should get heavy duty reinforcements in this year's draft and perhaps free agency, so Wilson will have fewer excuses for pick-prone performances.

Next. 2022 NFL Mock Draft: NY Jets build around Zach Wilson, 3 QBs in the first round. dark

It's said that expectation is the root of all heartache, and that rings especially true for Jets fans. Zach Wilson has an absolutely crucial year ahead of him, and football gods willing he won't disappoint.