Zack Wilson ends rookie season with tough test against mighty Bills defense – The Mercury News

Buffalo – Don’t expect much from Zach Wilson in the season finale on Sunday. And guess what? Ok.

Wilson’s rookie campaign ends here in Buffalo in Week 18, with the Bills team fighting to win the AFC East crown, so expect tough sledding for the No. 2 overall pick.

Offensively, the Jets are in their top three without receiving threats as Elijah Moore (quad), Corey Davis (core muscle injury) and Braxton Berios (quad), all ready to play.

And the Bills (10-6) pass defense is one of the league’s best. Buffalo’s D has forced the third most interceptions (19) and leads the league by percentage of completion (57%), against touchdowns allowed (11) and total passing yards (2,763).

It’s a unit that stunned Patrick Mahomes in the first season and took him down 300 yards despite throwing 54 times. The Bills forced two interceptions on their way to a 38–20 victory back in October.

The average NFL passing attack produces 221 passing yards per game in 2021. The Bills have allowed only 221 passing yards thrice this year.

“A great defense, a really good defense. We watch the movie on these guys and they love what they do, very good at the back end and then of course, wreaks havoc in the front, quarterback and Puts pressure on different things,” said Wilson who brings up a 3-9 record in Sunday’s game. “So, the challenge for me is how cleanly I can play, how skilled I can be, I just enough to see how we have to play it and put my team in the best position that I can, just be quick to make decisions and let the people around me do what they want Do the best and let them pretend. ,

To overcome an elite defense, it will start with Mike LaFleur, the Jets’ offensive coordinator.

“It’s hard in their zone coverage because there’s a little bit of space and if you’re a hair of late, they’re going to close that space,” LaFleur said. “It’s tough in their man coverage, because they are very good at man coverage, they are very sticky and they are good at covering tight ends, they are good at covering receivers, they are good at covering backs, They don’t have any holes in their defence.

“So, it’s my job to do that and put our guys in the best position to be able to beat those coverages and Zach’s job is to deliver the ball and make plays to our guys when that ball is in the air. ”

But if Wilson doesn’t deliver his best game — or something close — it’s not going to affect the development he’s shown to stretch.

Most QBs haven’t played well against this Bills defense, so it’s unreasonable to expect a rookie QB to light them. And it’s his first look at the Bills since their Week 10 loss to Buffalo at MetLife Stadium due to a knee injury that cost him four games.

If Wilson does, great. If not, don’t let a sour finale dazzle blind Jets fans who give you hope about the rookie’s signal-caller’s future.

It is human nature to lose sight of the forest for the trees, especially when the most recent walk leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

But, context matters.

A poor show in the 18th game will not change Wilson’s talent in his rookie season. Granted, it hasn’t been as consistent as people would like. But let’s not forget a few ‘wow’ throws against the Buccaneers.

“Some of the throws he did on Sunday are high-difficulty throws,” head coach Robert Saleh said of last week’s near-upset on Tampa Bay. “And he’s making about four or five “wow” throws every week that’s not where he’s scrambling and doing anything, it is as a quarterback. It was fun watching him grow.”

And let’s not forget the off-script throw he made against the Titans in his first career win in Week 4 that drove MetLife fans crazy. And some of the plays he made in the opener against the Panthers in the second half of the season.

Saleh refers to Wilson’s off-platform ability as his superpower, which most NFL QBs don’t have.

He cannot be ignored when he produced three touchdowns in the first half against the Eagles in Week 13. The 52-yard run against the Jaguars two weeks ago shouldn’t be ruled out.

Yes, there’s been a lot of pain along the way—the atrocious four-intercept game against the Patriots in their first clash against the Bill Belichick team or a disappointing 45% completion game against the Saints come to mind—but Wilson is a 22-year-old. Cheater. The season was baptized by fire with a rookie head coach and first-time play-caller guiding the No. 2 pick from last April’s draft for the Gang Green team who went 2-14 the previous season.

The roller coaster ride was predictable.

And against the Bills, the offense will need to continue its mighty run game for the past two weeks. He has run for 423 yards, which is the second highest in the NFL in that period. This should take the pressure off his young QB and allow Wilson to play supplementary football.

“There’s something about the run game that just wears on people,” Saleh said. “And when you can do that, it makes it easier to play a game of football and it opens up everything else. It is very important.”

So, on Sundays, as the Jets travel to fight their division rivals, Wilson’s performance probably won’t produce results worth remembering for the next few days. But that’s precisely because at the end of his rookie season he has shown enough brightness to give the organization hope that he might be the quarterback he thought was the second player off the board in the draft.

Does Wilson still have work? Absolutely. But there is talent and don’t forget that.