Four starts, four wins so far this season for Jets QB Zach Wilson. Impeccable ball security the past three games without an interception or a lost fumble.
In his first start of the 2022 NFL season (at Pittsburgh) Wilson led a pair of fourth-quarter TD drives, going 10-of-12 passing for 128 yards and a TD. Since Week 4 in the fourth quarter, his completion percentage is 85.5% (tied for No. 1 in the league), passer rating is 124.2 and he has not been sacked.
And the Jets have dominated opponents in the fourth quarter by 74-20, a 54-point advantage that is tops in the NFL through seven weeks. Finally, the offense has an 8:17 time of possession advantage in the final quarter in Wilson's four games, second in the league to the unbeaten Eagles. ... And, oh yeah, and the Jets (5-2) are tied with Buffalo and Kansas City for the most wins in the AFC.
Winning may cure all ills, as the saying goes, but in the NFL's numbers game the quarterback is expected to sling the pigskin and toss TD passes. Certainly, in the past month, the Jets have succeeded in bossing games on the ground as Wilson was called on to manage the offense. But now, with rookie RB Breece Hall out for the season and WR Corey Davis day-to-day with a knee injury, Wilson and the offense will have to adjust against the Green & White's arch nemesis -- the New England Patriots.
"I would say we'll miss Breece, but we need more in the passing game," Wilson acknowledged during Thursday's press conference. "We're leaving some plays on the field. We need to execute our offense. I feel we're in a good spot, confident and winning games. In the pass, game we need to be more efficient."
Among the coaching staff, particularly HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur, the view is that the Jets and Wilson have faced several of the best defensive backfields in the league the past few weeks. They do believe that the passing game, which is ranked 23rd in the league in pass yards and 29th in third-down efficiency, can be effective when called upon.
"I mean, I feel like we're playing the top pass defense every single week right now," LaFleur said. "You know, Green Bay was top five. Denver was top two or three and these guys [New England] are No. 2 right now. So, it's an incredible challenge.
"He [Wilson] and the rest of the guys did what they had to do to find a way to get a W [at Denver], so I keep preaching that we can play any game. We can play any game necessary. We've proven that over four games, we want to get more consistent, but they can play any game."
Though Saleh has been circumspect when asked about the Jets' one-sided loss to the Patriots last season and the prospect of snapping a 12-game losing streak to NE (which includes 6 losses at MetLife Stadium), he has been animated when asked questions about Wilson's TD production.
"Of course, you always want to see your guys just taking huge steps, but you've got to be able to sit back and really try to paint the picture of what's actually happening," Saleh said. "I thought he [Wilson] did a really nice job against Pittsburgh. Again, I've referenced the fourth quarter in the Pittsburgh game, that was unbelievable pocket presence, getting the ball where it needed to go, really good football.
"The Miami game, if Breece Hall scores on those two big passes, we're not talking about whether he's throwing touchdown passes in the last three games, he would've had two of them, he [Hall] just got tackled at the one. And then you just look at the last two defenses, they've made a lot of really, really good quarterbacks look really, really, really bad and Zach's not the first or the last that it's going to happen to. Those are two really good pass defenses that we played, so I've still got a lot of faith in Zach and he's going to continue to have improvement. And for sure, you want to see dramatic improvement every week, but the other guys get paid, too. So, we're not wavering on where he is, we still think he's getting a lot better and with the division we're in every single week is going to be a tremendous challenge and at the end of the day, he's only going to get better for all of us."
See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the home game against New England.
Speaking after the Denver game, Saleh added: "I couldn't care less about the numbers. Football 101 is to run the ball until they stop you. Zach is playing within the scheme to help this team win games. ... Zach is a ton better than he was a year ago and he's going to continue to get better."
Wilson had a difficult first game against the Patriots last season, part of the reason is how Pats HC Bill Belichick revels in bamboozling rookie quarterbacks. Then in the game at Foxborough, Matthew Judon's sack of Wilson resulted in a knee injury that kept him out of action for four games.
"I'm looking forward to playing against another top defense," Wilson said. "We haven't shown yet, but I'm more optimistic. I'm looking at this game as more of a challenge as a passing unit. We have the ability to do that. They make it hard, they make you earn it, we have to be efficient and execute."
He added, referring to last season: "Mentally I'm in a lot better spot. I'm excited to take these guys on."