Zach Wilson is on a fairly far-out run, for a Jets quarterback or for any QB. He's had unremarkable passing lines, especially in the last two games, at Green Bay and Denver. Yet he's put together the first four-game winning streak from the start of his season (not necessarily Game 1) by a Jets QB since Chad Pennington opened 2004 with that five-game streak. How is Zach doing it?
One very important way is ball protection, a.k.a. no turnovers.
"Zach's just getting more and more comfortable," offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said this week, adding about the Broncos, "That's a tough defense we just went against. ... We felt like we left a lot out there, but ultimately the two-minute situation and other situations where we didn't turn the ball over, that was playing team ball.
"And that's something he's just learned. He knows when to take his chances, when not to take his chances within a game, he's getting more comfortable playing the game within the game. I would anticipate that's just going to continue to grow."
From November Till Now: Fewest Turnovers
We've compiled several ways of looking at Zach and the Jets' preference of late to take the football away rather than give it away. The first lens we'll look through is total turnovers plus number of plays, from Wilson's November return from last year's knee injury through today, a span of 14 regular-season weeks. In TO totals alone, Wilson was 3rd on the list for fewest QB turnovers with 5, trailing the 4 of ex-Jet Geno Smith, now with Seattle, and the Giants' Daniel Jones.
Then if we weight the passers in terms of most offensive plays per giveaway, again for just these 14 weeks, we find that Wilson, with 5 turnovers in 374 snaps, is averaging 74.8 snaps/TO, 5th-best figure in the league in a list topped by Aaron Rodgers (82.0) and Tom Brady (79.4).
Jets' 2022 TO Trivia
To broaden the subject and bring it forward, let's consider the Jets' team turnover margins. Wilson didn't play the first three games of course but still we see some informative bullet points:
■ The Jets' plus-2 TO margin for the season is tied for 10th in the NFL. It is their best margin after 7 weeks of a season since having a plus-4, tied for 6th, in 2015. (They also were plus-2, tied for 9th, in 2020.) With just a plus-1 outing vs. the Patriots, they'll be in the 2015 ballpark of plus-3, tied for 8th, after 8 weeks.
■ Last year after 7 games, the Jets under first-year HC Robert Saleh were minus-8 and in 30th place. So in the same place on the schedule a year later, they've moved from minus-8 to plus-2.
■ In the past four weeks, all with Wilson under center, the Jets have had four plus turnover games, the first time with that long a plus streak since they opened the 2010 season with five plus TO games, winning four.
■ In the past three games, not only have Wilson and his offense not suffered an INT or lost a FUM but they haven't even fumbled once. Three straight games of quadruple zeroes (no INTs, FUMs, FUMS lost, TOs) has happened only once before in franchise history — in 2009, from Game 15 at Indianapolis through Game 16 vs. the Bengals ("Win & We're In!) through the AFC Wild Card Game at Cincinnati. Four in a row? That's yet to happen.
Turnover Drive Rate Leaders
Finally, introducing the element of drive statistics into the individual and team giveaways, this can be said: Through these first seven weeks of 2022, 36 NFL quarterbacks have led their offenses on 30-plus drives. No. 1 in terms of running a low-giveaway operation is the Eagles' Jalen Hurts. No. 2 is Wilson. Here are the top five:
|QB, Team||Drives||Team TOs||TO Drive Rate|
|Jalen Hurts, PHI||65||2||3.1%|
|Zach Wilson, NYJ||49||2||4.1%|
|Daniel Jones, NYG||69.5||4||5.8%|
|Tom Brady, TB||77||5||6.5%|
|Ryan Tannehill, TEN||60.5||4||6.6%|
No doubt, as Saleh said after the grind-it-out win at Denver, Wilson "obviously is going to want things that he can't have back, but he did a great job, he didn't turn the ball over." The young QB would surely like improved accuracy, increased third-down production and more passing TDs. But he's already well at work on the turnover thing, which remains one of the NFL's more iconic and more accurate predictors of winning football. He's already 4-0 this season, and, said the HC, "He's only going to get better for all of us."