The Jets aren't hurting for offensive playmakers, so OC Mike LaFleur knows he will face questions about ball distribution throughout the season. With QB Zach Wilson slated to make his return to the lineup Sunday vs. the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the team's play-caller would like a more balanced approach.
"Every week there is probably going to be somebody who needs more targets and probably needs to be used in a different way," LaFleur said. "That's going to happen all year. When you think about our backs, no kidding, elephant in the room, I want to run the ball more, we want to run the ball more. Then all of a sudden, the pass targets are going to go a little bit down, so now we have to get Garrett (Wilson), Corey (Davis), Elijah (Moore), Braxton (Berrios) is still one of the better returners that you can use from an offensive standpoint with some of the gadget-type stuff."
The Jets have owned a lead for only :22 seconds as backup QB Joe Flacco set an NFL record with 155 pass attempts through the season's first three weeks. Playing catch-up football has meant called designed runs on 26% of the Jets' plays to date. The Green & White are the only team with six different players with 10+recepitons, so Wilson will have plenty of targets who can make things happen with the ball.
"Is it a challenge? Sure, but is a fun challenge," LaFleur said. "We have to keep on figuring out who we are and what we want to get done."
LaFleur believes Wilson, who missed four games his rookie season with a PCL sprain, is in a different headspace following an arthroscopic procedure to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee.
"He was 100 percent clear, but I think he felt just a little bit weird about it at first especially because he never wore a brace before too," LaFleur said of Wilson. "I know he feels good and we're going to do what we think is the right thing vs. this defense. They present a lot of challenges and as always in this game, there are a lot of variables that happen. When something breaks down, he's going to go play his game compared to other quarterbacks."
While Wilson got injured during a scramble in the preseason opener vs. the Eagles, LaFleur was clear the Jets won't ask him to change his game and expressed confidence Wilson will make the right decisions while utilizing his athletic skill set.
"When it's time to get the ball to number one (progression), get the ball to number one," LaFleur said. "When it's time to throw the ball way, throw the ball away. When it's time to make a play, go make a play. And that's what he's going to do."
The Jets can't make up for time lost. Wilson, who in Weeks 13-18 last season totaled 8 TDs (3 rush TDs) against 1 INT while posting a 77.5 passer rating, said he's going to have fun and play free.
"We can't go into Sunday, trying to get all six weeks that he missed or eight weeks or however long it's been," LaFleur said. "He can't get it all back in one play, one quarter, one half, one game. Just go out and play your game and make the most of each opportunity you get and play each game as it is."
With fall temperatures expected to be in the low 60s Sunday in Pittsburgh, Wilson won't have his golf clubs packed for the trip. But LaFleur provided a hopeful golf analogy for the 23-year-old who is about to tee off after a long wait.
"I'm not a golfer," LaFleur said. "I don't golf very often, but when I haven't played in forever, sometimes my best game is that first time I pick up a club."