The road to redemption is never an easy one. That's especially true when you've fallen so short of expectations that those expectations have all but disappeared. Such is the case with NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
The second-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Wilson was hailed as the Jets; next franchise savior — a fresh face in what was supposed to be a new era for the organization.
In many ways, Wilson was present for the beginning of said new era of Jets football. He's just no longer the face of it.
Instead, Wilson will start in tonight's Hall of Fame Game against the Cleveland Browns. He will be one of a host of backups taking the field for the most meaningless of the four preseason contests the Jets will take part in.
There will be no Aaron Rodgers. Sauce Gardner will be watching from the sideline. Instead, all eyes will be on Zach Wilson. The good news, however, is that there will be no expectations — not after what Jets fans saw last year.
NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson faces little pressure in tonight's Hall of Fame Game
Wilson's first two seasons in the NFL have been a roller coaster, to say the least. The former BYU star statistically compares to some of the most notable draft busts in NFL history. He's drawn comparisons to players like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf.
And in reality, it's hard to disagree given what we've seen to this point. Wilson was mentally broken last season. From his preseason injury to his numerous benchings, the former No. 2 overall pick hardly resembled the player the Jets saw at BYU by the end of the year.
He couldn't complete a screen pass. He folded at the first sign of any pressure. He made the easy throws look difficult and the hard throws look impossible.
Wilson needed an offseason to reset his psyche and essentially start fresh. That's what he hopes to do this season. And he'll do so by learning under the guidance of future Hall of Fame quarterback — and Wilson's childhood idol — Aaron Rodgers.
To Wilson's credit, he's said and done all the right things this offseason. He's stayed quiet and out of the headlines. He's owned up to past mistakes and, by all accounts, has been putting in the work on and off the field.
Tonight will be Wilson's first opportunity to prove that he's taken steps in the right direction. Even if it's too late for him to salvage a career with the Jets, he's still playing for his NFL future. There is a lot at stake for Wilson this summer.
But for the first time since he was drafted by the Jets, there are no expectations. The Jets aren't relying on Wilson to be anything other than a backup quarterback this season.
In many ways, it's reminiscent of Wilson's final year at BYU. The Utah native had to earn the starting job that summer. Few expected him to be anything more than your typical college starting quarterback.
Instead, Wilson took the college football world by storm and solidified his place among the top prospects in the next year's NFL Draft. Wilson thrived without the weight of the world on his shoulders. He excelled when faced with few expectations.
Finally, Wilson has reached that point again — he's come full circle. His road to redemption begins with a trivial exhibition game in early August. The game might not mean much, but maybe that's exactly what Wilson needs to regain his confidence.
All eyes might be on Zach Wilson tonight, but those eyes won't be staring at an expected franchise savior. Those eyes will simply want to see progress. They say pressure makes diamonds, but sometimes serenity can be a blessing in disguise.
They say pressure makes diamonds, but sometimes serenity can be a blessing in disguise.