No Longer with Team: Johnson
Potential Free Agents in 2022
'22: Continuing Wilson's Growth
Zach Wilson's improvement in passing, running, turnovers and touchdown drive production in his last seven starts compared to his first six starts was a welcome step toward the future. He still needs to get his passing accuracy closer to the 73.5% of his last season at BYU, drop his 3-and-out drive rate, and increase the Jets' yardage/point production. "I definitely have a list of things that I want to get better at overall and I'm actually really excited to go in and work on those things and then to come back next year and try to apply those," Wilson said last month. "I think it will be good. We got a good group of dudes that I can do it with as well. I'm going to spend some time with those guys in the offseason, just trying to build that chemistry."
Who else will be in the QB room with Wilson? Joe Flacco can become unrestricted and seemed good with his role as the primary Zach-up and occasional starter. If he departs, do the Jets bring in another veteran who could play a similar role behind the young starter? Or do they go with youth behind Wilson, particularly with Mike White, who can become restricted. And for all the QBs on the roster, a key to their development will be the rising foundation of skill players and blockers around them, not just the returnees for year two of the Robert Saleh/Mike LaFleur offensive scheme but, equally important, those arriving via free agency and the draft.
See the best images of Jets Quarterbacks during the 2021 season.
'21: Zach's Rookie Story in Two 'Halves'
Wilson's progress from first six games to last seven can be measured in several ways. Throwing more passes in the second "half", his interceptions still dropped from nine to two and he ended the year with 156 consecutive passes without a pick. His offense's TD drive rate jumped from 11.8% to 17.6%. His passer rating made a modest gain from 63.5 to 75.2. And his rushing rush was remarkable — he went from 2.8 yards/carry and no TDs in his first half to 7.8 and four scores in his second half, and he wound up as the NFL's top rushing quarterback in '21 (20-plus carries) at 6.38 yards/carry, largely due to his franchise-QB-record 52-yard TD run vs. the Jaguars.
The big question regarding White is whether he's closer to the 405-yard passer who started for the injured Wilson and led the upset of the AFC Super Bowl representative Bengals in Week 8, or to the four-interception thrower vs. Buffalo two weeks later. Flacco and Josh Johnson (signed by the Ravens off the Jets' practice squad in December) didn't win any games but still posted a gaudy number or two while helping Wilson's rookie maturation process. Flacco passed for 291 yards and two TDs in the home loss to Miami two weeks after Johnson came on for long relief for the injured White at Indianapolis and threw for 317 yards and three TDs.
White, Flacco and Johnson all saw playing time in the four-plus games that Wilson was sidelined with a knee injury. As a result, all four Jets QBs threw at least 40 passes, had at least 25 completions and threw for at least three touchdown passes — the first time any of those levels were reached by four QBs in the same season in franchise history.