NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson’s stats against the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick are an ugly read. 25-of-43, 261 yards, zero touchdowns, four interceptions.
It is quite evident that Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense enjoyed bullying a rookie Zach Wilson, having outscored Wilson’s Jets 79-19, and also forcing Wilson off the field in their embarrassing 54-13 loss when he endured a hit to the legs.
31 percent of Wilson's 13 career interceptions have come against New England, but this time feels different. Wilson goes into this game a different quarterback than the one that the Patriots played a year ago.
Wilson has become a safer football player, evolving from a reckless rookie to a conservative quarterback who has played his role in the Jets' win streak in 2022. Sunday's matchup will be a fascinating watch where we get to see just how far Wilson has come.
The NY Jets need Zach Wilson to be much better than he was against the Broncos
Looking at Wilson’s performance against Denver. This game doesn't exactly fill you with hope as to Wilson’s expectations for the game at MetLife this Sunday. Wilson finished the game 16-for-26 for 121 yards, zero touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Although this state is seemingly not too bad, Wilson’s tape is an ugly watch. He was holding onto the ball for too long, missing throws, and overall looked unsettled by a strong Broncos defense throughout the game. He struggled to garner any momentum in what was a true scrap of a match with the Jets emerging as 16-9 victors.
That said, although Wilson’s performance can be criticized against Denver, it must also be placed into true context. Wilson was playing without a key weapon in Elijah Moore after his trade request and a makeshift offensive line that only got more depleted in the game, most notably after Alijah Vera-Tucker left early with an injury.
This is a devastating injury to the Jets, with Vera-Tucker playing across the offensive line at a superb standard. For a second-year lineman, this is quite sensational and it is gutting that he can’t continue to showcase his ridiculous talent with the Jets this season.
To compound the injury misery at Mile High, Breece Hall also suffered an ACL tear to sideline him for the season. The Jets won the battle in Denver, but they paid the price.
This also meant that Wilson’s performance in Colorado was heavily disrupted by these substantial injuries. He was left with a depleted offense to lead against one of the league’s top defenses.
This Broncos’ defense has a habit of making it tough for opposing quarterbacks. Not only does Mile High’s altitude put a physical strain on the body, but statistically, the Broncos have prevented some top QBs this season from any sort of dominance.
Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, and Mat Ryan have all faced the Broncos this season, and none have thrown for a touchdown whilst combining for three interceptions.
The fact that Wilson’s stat line is somewhat in line with three established NFL quarterbacks (despite Ryan's struggles) suggests the criticism of Wilson for his performance is overly harsh.
Against Denver, their constant pressure and clever blitz usage were one of the primary factors behind Wilson’s struggles. Wilson was doing a hefty amount of running around the backfield, at some points unnecessarily.
This evasive talent is going to be needed against the Patriots. Belichick will capitalize on Wilson’s tendency to hold onto the ball and poor output when under pressure, and keep the backfield pressure constant and relentless.
Wilson’s completion percentage when under pressure is an ugly 16.1 percent. His Pro Football Focus grade when under pressure is 23.0. This is not what you want Belichick to be seeing ahead of this weekend, and these stat lines will have him licking his lips.
While Wilson can expect to see constant pressure from all angles this weekend, it will be interesting to see how he has changed since his infamous four-interception performance as a rookie. His play has developed to become game manager-esque, with Wilson often being too safe at times.
The Patriots will prey on Wilson’s tendency to hold on to the ball too long and will try and force him into one of his runs which features him scampering around the backfield.
Although his evasion skills are exceptional, Wilson needs to be careful on Sunday to make sure he does not take any unnecessary sacks for negative yardage. Another thing Wilson has struggled with when under pressure is his footwork and fundamental mechanics.
When pressured or blitzed, there are times when Wilson fails to get his feet set properly and thus delivers inaccurate throws. This has cost the Jets first downs in key moments and has, at times, prevented them from gaining momentum on drives.
If Wilson can take further steps to keep his mechanics, which must be noted to have improved in his second year, intact when under pressure, then he may just be able to improve his record at the helm of the offense to 5-0.
It will be a tough outing for Zach Wilson this Sunday, but the excitement around a rivalry game like this has been a rare sight over these last few years. MetLife will be loud on Sunday, and the Jets must ride it if they are to get their first win against New England since 2015.