When asked about what kind of message the Jets' young guns sent in 2022, standout rookie Garrett Wilson told reporters that a special group of first-year players are only getting started.
"Better days are coming," he said. "We took a step from the year before this one, and we plan to do the same next year. We know what we were brought here to do and that's produce and make a difference, and we all take a lot of pride in doing that and given that we did take a step, we still feel like we could've made something more out of this season."
Last week, Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets' 2022 draft class No. 1 from the season while ESPN recently ranked the Jets' seven-player haul No. 2 in terms of production. With NFL honors approaching on Feb. 9,, there has been a groundswell of support for not only CB Sauce Gardner to grab Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but for Wilson, the electrifying performer from Ohio State taken six picks behind Gardner at No. 10 overall, to capture Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Playing with the Jets starting three quarterbacks and a fourth signal-caller, Wilson set franchise rookie marks with 83 receptions and 1,103 yards receiving. Both those numbers paced all NFL first-year wideouts and Wilson, who had a career-high 9 receptions in the Jets' final regular-season game, at Miami, had seven games with at least 89 yards receiving.
"Just a lot of learning experiences, but it's special, it's really special," Wilson said of his first pro campaign. "When I look back on this and talk to my kids and talk to my family, it's going to be something that I always look back on and have a lot of happiness that comes with it, so rookie season has been great."
Wilson, a dynamic basketball player throughout his childhood, is both quick and fast plus he's rangy and can contort his body to make difficult catches. After the catch, Wilson combines fearlessness with those basketball skills where he can crossover defenders and he is slippery in space. But his most impressive trait was continued production no matter who was throwing the football.
"Everyone plays a position where it takes all 11, but I'm confident that if they put in the ball somewhere in there, try to make plays, put in the accurate ball, then I will be able to make plays no matter who is under center," he said. "Luckily, we had some good ones this year, so I was blessed to have that for my rookie season and learning to play with different players and different personalities and still find a way to make an impact and put our team with a chance to win. But yeah, I'm confident that whoever it is — I'm going to be alright."
In three seasons (2019-21) at Ohio State, Wilson played on a team that went 31-4. It looked like Wilson was on his way to the NFL playoffs, but the Jets squandered a 7-4 start and finished three games under .500. After a Jets' 31-10 thumping of the Bears in Week 12 when Wilson had 5 catches for 95 yards and 2 TDs, the Jets had 4 offensive TDs in the final six games and did not reach the end zone in their final three contests.
"I've never felt like this," he said as the Jets cleared out their lockers. "After the game yesterday [vs. the Dolphiins] I'm like 'Damn, we really just lost six straight.' When I really sit down and think about it and reflect, it's tough. You take the leap, and you feel like you're better than teams, and you don't go out there and prove it and what does that matter at all? It doesn't, so it's time to go out there and be about results, it's time to be about results next year and put the work in in the offseason.
"But enough talking about it, just go out there and win the games. Wo what we're supposed to do, win the games we're supposed to win, and yeah, can't happen again in my career."
As the Jets continue their search for an offensive coordinator, they have several foundational pieces on that side of the ball including OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, RB Breece Hall and Wilson. For the first time in a long time, the Jets have a true WR1 and he's only going to get better.
"I want to get stronger, be able to just handle this full season and know that I'm built for it, know that my body is built for it, can handle it, putting some more fat on my bones," Wilson said. "Just all-around learning different skills from different receivers, and spending time with other players that have had an impact in this League and been doing it for longer than I have, so that I can really see what steps I need to take. I'm excited for this offseason, just improving my game all around."