Zach Wilson is not accustomed to struggling on the football field. Or to losing.
After three games as the Jets' quarterback, the rookie from BYU has, well, looked like a rookie. He's taken a licking, but has vowed to keep on ticking.
"I would say mentally I feel good, really good, I feel confident," Wilson told reporters on Wednesday afternoon as the Jets (0-3) turned their attention to Sunday's game against visiting Tennessee (2-1) at MetLife Stadium. "I feel like it's really close. We need all 11 guys to be great, I'm included as one of those guys making a mistake. I think we're close to having all 11 on the same page.
"I knew this was going to be tough for us. It's the first time we're all together, the first time in a new offense. As long as we take losses as a learning experience I think we're going to be right on track."
Call it the unshakeable confidence of youth, or however you would like to characterize. The Jets and head coach Robert Saleh believe that Wilson is the guy. Their guy.
"You saw in college, you see his competitive nature that he is not going to let a play die," Saleh said. "He is so confident that he can make every single play and every throw. His arm talent is ridiculous. But he's got to learn that the league is different. It's OK just because you take something [a checkdown] it doesn't mean you're less competitive. Just being smart. When the opportunity to cut the defense is there, pull out a knife and cut the defense."
Through three games, Wilson has shown an unwillingness to "let a play die," as Saleh said. At least half of the four interceptions against New England a few weeks ago were mistakes of commission as Wilson tried to force plays.
In fact, on Wednesday Saleh focused on a single play to demonstrate his point that Wilson needs to go through his progressions -- and quickly -- and play smart.
Late in the second quarter, with the Jets facing a third-and-11 at their own 32-yard line, Wilson was sacked by Denver's Von Miller for an 8-yard loss. Instead of Thomas Morstead punting to try and pin the Broncos deep in their territory, Denver put the ball in play from its 31-yard line and marched 64 yards in 8 plays to take a 17-0 lead at intermission.
"Miller came around the edge and got him," Saleh said. "And he's waiting on the big one to open up, against Denver, they rarely give up third down let alone third-and-long. We have a checkdown, get to the 40-yard line, punt, back them up and we're in good shape to get it back at the logo. We took the sack, we punted now they're at the logo and the percentages just change. Understanding that aspect from a coaching standpoint there's so much on his mind. He has a competitive edge to him and eventually will get to that point. When it pops it's going to be pretty cool."
Wilson got the message.
"I understand at that moment of the game we need to play the field position game," Wilson said. "What I need to get better at as far as textbook work, the first hitch is downfield, the second is a checkdown. I really can't put myself in position to get sacked. Let us take 5 yards and play field position."
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Against the Broncos, Wilson was sacked five times and had two passes intercepted. The keys, according to Saleh, are "trusting his footwork, trusting his eye placement and trusting the progression within the offense."
The Jets first three games of the 2021 NFL season have been a rough educational opportunity for Wilson. It's all coming at him at once as the Jets first three opponents rank No. 1 (Carolina), No. 5 (New England) and No. 2 (Denver) in total defense.
"It's a different speed, the NFL is superfast," Wilson said. "It's a matter of how quickly I can progress. If something is not there don't hang on it move on. Make that easy throw."
He added: "Three weeks in, I've learned a lot. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I can't put a timeline on it. I feel so confident."