To a man, the Jets have talked about collectively improving their pass protection following Sunday's regular-season opener at Carolina, a 19-14 loss. Jets' prized rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, was hit 10 times and sacked on 6 occasions during his professional debut.
"Pressure-wise, I have to do a better job of handling it [defensive pressure]," Wilson said on Thursday. "It's been that point of emphasis for us this week as a team. For me, I've got to get the ball out quicker, have good decisions. That's evolving."
Wilson should benefit from the return of WRs Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole as the Jets (0-1) prepare for their home opener, against New England (0-1) and its rookie QB Mac Jones, on Sunday. On the downside, however, the loss of LT Mekhi Becton due to injury for 4-to-6 weeks means a long-term reshuffling of the offensive line, with George Fant moving from RT to LT and Morgan Moses holding down the spot vacated by Fant.
As Wilson and the rest of the NFL world knows, the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick have had a dominant run inside the division with 17 AFCE first-place finishes since 2000. The Pats had claimed 11 consecutive divisions prior to a 7-9 mark last season as Tom Brady moved south to Tampa.
"It's going to be super cool [facing New England]," Wilson said. "I think the New England Patriots for my whole life have been going to Super Bowls. It seemed like every year they were in the Super Bowl. It was so long I can't distinguish which is which.
"The team is different now, without Tom [Brady], but Bill [Belichick] is still there and he's one of the best around. Their scheme, it's tough. It's going to be a challenge. They're very disciplined, able to play man and put guys out there on an island and trust their players. They do a lot of different things. Over such a long time, teams usually screw up, but they're so well-coached, they do a lot of things and do really well."
While Wilson and the Jets failed to score in the first half last week, the rookie QB rallied the team in the second half, leading two scoring drives.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said: "I thought he really settled in his first game in the NFL. He did some really good things and others to learn from. He'll be learning all year and going into Year 2. It was cool talking to him after the game when I was saying how important every single play is so you need to stay so locked in. He was not happy we lost, he said 'wow,' you were so right this is hard. It's mentally taxing on people. You're going to see improvement going from Week 1 to Week 2.
One of those "really good things" was late in the fourth quarter on first down from the 50-yard line. Wilson stepped up into pressure and launched a laser to Denzel Mims along the sideline. The play gained 40 yards and set up Wilson's second TD pass of the day to Corey Davis to cap the 13-minute drive.
"I thought he really settled in," Wilson said. "It's his first game in the NFL amongst all the other guys that were obviously put in their first game as rookie quarterbacks. But he did some really good things, he did some things that he's going to learn from, and that quite frankly is going to be all year, it's going to go into year two. I mean there's so many things that happen in a game. It was kind of cool talking to him after because we kept saying how important every single play is."