It's been a rough few weeks for NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. With the exception of a highlight-filled Week 4 that saw him named Rookie of the Week, Wilson has struggled to start his first NFL season.
The No. 2 overall pick is on pace to break Peyton Manning's rookie interception record after tossing his 10th pick on Sunday. In that game, he managed only 59 yards in the first 50 minutes before some garbage-time stat-padding took place.
Wilson has been about as frustrating as a quarterback could be through five weeks. In many ways, he's defined the term "rookie quarterback."
He does some things that remind you why he was such a highly-touted prospect and why the Jets used the second overall pick on him. But more often than not, those moments of glory are shrouded in mental lapses, poor decisions, or just a lack of execution.
Zach Wilson puts the fun in fundamental. Unfortunately, he's hasn't quite been able to nail down the "mental" part of the word.
And that has been his biggest enemy so far this season.
The NY Jets must help Zach Wilson work on the simple stuff
Wilson makes the hard plays look easy. His 54-yard bomb to Corey Davis in Week 4 was a throw that probably 15-20 people on this planet could make — and he made it look effortless.
Rolling out to his right, directing Davis upfield, and heaving a football nearly 60 yards through the air, Wilson made highlight reels across the country with a simple flick of the wrist.
Those are the types of plays that got him drafted as high as he was. The Jets knew he could do that already.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Wilson has developed a tendency to make the easy plays look hard.
Take this week's game against the Atlanta Falcons for instance. The Jets were already trailing 17-0 but had Atlanta's defense reeling following a promising drive.
On 1st-and-10, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur drew up a beautiful bubble screen to Jamison Crowder.
The linebackers were drawn to their right, away from the screen. The Jets had two blockers on two defenders with one single-high safety serving as the Falcons' only hope of preventing a score.
Crowder was wide open only a few yards away from Wilson and would have almost surely found the end zone. Wilson skipped the pass a couple of feet in front of him.
Wilson never set his feet, threw across his body, and ultimately misfired. That's a pass every NFL, collegiate, and probably high school quarterback should make.
On the very next play, LaFleur dialed up another screen, this time to running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman appeared to have blockers and open space in front of him, but Wilson bounced the pass off the back of right tackle Morgan Moses.
Two consecutive plays that should have worked, only for Wilson to fail to execute the simplest of tasks.
How does a quarterback who can make throws like the 54-yarder to Davis or the 29-yard dime to Keelan Cole in overtime of Week 4 fail to complete two wide-open screen passes in a row?
A lack of fundamentals. The simple stuff. Footwork, mechanics, and all the "boring" parts of being an NFL quarterback.
The off-script stuff is what makes Wilson special. But opportunities for those plays are scarce during the course of a game. You aren't going to win many (if any) football games on highlight-reel passes alone.
The elite quarterbacks in this league are all special in their own right. They can make those highlight-reel plays, but the reason they've reached the level they have is because of all the plays that don't get replayed on SportsCenter.
But before we can even put Wilson in the same conversation as the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, etc., he must show that he can even be a competent NFL quarterback.
Truth be told, most probably didn't expect Wilson to struggle with the easy stuff as much as he has so far. I know I didn't.
Growing pains were expected, but many of these misses go beyond simple "rookie mistakes."
It's been five weeks so obviously it's far too soon to make any declarative statements about Wilson's future. Some of the best quarterbacks in NFL history have bounced back from worse.
But his poor start is cause for some concern. Not panic — but fair, honest criticism.
Zach Wilson needs to worry a little less about the fun and start focusing on the fundamentals. If not, the Jets' offense will continue to flounder.