Zach Wilson is back. Poised. No flinch.
There was much to chew over and analyze on the day after the Jets' second stirring comeback of the young NFL season. And for the Green & White (2-2) to continue on an upward trajectory, Wilson likely will have to play at a level he reached during the team's 14-point fourth quarter that snatched a 24-20 victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Asked about Wilson's steely performance in the final 15 minutes, head coach Robert Saleh spread around the accolades, saying "there's a lot with regards to the team."
That's certainly true, but Wilson -- playing in his first game since sustaining a knee injury in the first preseason game in early August -- set the tone and led by example. His teammates followed him and felt his energy and determination. On the Jets' final, game-winning drive, rookie running back Breece Hall said that Wilson told his teammates in the huddle that he was certain the Jets would win the game.
"He did say that," TE Tyler Conklin confirmed during Monday's virtual press conference with reporters. "And I think it's just that feeling in that huddle in the fourth quarter. I think as a unit we felt like we were going to get this done. And, you know, I felt Zach was really resilient, really confident. I think really in that fourth quarter, he settled in and he was like I'm going to help us to victory. And he did that."
Though he finished the game completing 50% of his passes (18 of 36 for 252 yards, a TD, a TD catch and 2 INTs), it was his play in the fourth quarter that grabbed the attention and appreciation of Saleh as the Jets came from 10 points behind to secure their second road win of the season.
"No flinch on either side of the ball," Saleh said. "There were penalties that put us in first- and second-and long, but he kept plugging away. Zach was hanging in pocket, calm, throwing darts, lasers, and guys were grinding to get yards after the catch. No flinch. He was calm, allowing the clock to wind down and leaving them with 16 seconds. Calm and resolve to overcome the second and third quarters and finish strong. I thought it was a really, really great NFL game for those guys and something to build off."
Even the view from the sideline, where the defensive players stood and watched Wilson lead the team to victory, there were only positive vibes and visions of what might be possible over the next 13 games.
"He was very electric," said safety Lamarcus Joyner, who was pretty illuminating himself, with a pair of interceptions and strong play throughout. "It was great to have Zach back. After missing the first three, he did well coming back. He was composed and mobile and made some really good throws and decisions."
AVT Stands for Alijah Very-Terrific
What can you say about a second-year player, an offensive lineman who can seamlessly move inside from left guard to right guard, and then back outside to left tackle? When it comes to Alijah Vera-Tucker, the word is "fantastic."
Injuries, the most recent to rookie Max Mitchell, have forced the Jets to scramble to put together a consistent group, which has been next to impossible since the cascade of injuries that began when Mekhi Becton sustained a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Through it all, through the first four games of the 2022 NFL season, the USC product has played 100% of the Jets' snaps and dominated like few sophomore professionals.
"We talk about AVT a lot behind his back, the guy's a freak, but in a good way," TE Tyler Conklin said. "He doesn't say much, works his butt off and he's a hell of a football player. It's really impressive what he did, but we also kind of expected it in a sense."
Switching to left tackle, next to veteran Laken Tomlinson, on Sunday gave quarterback Zach Wilson a bit of a blindside security blanket in his first game of the season after coming back from a knee injury sustained in the preseason. Wilson, who displayed an impressive elusiveness and control, was sacked once by the Steelers.
"Thought AVT was fantastic," head coach Robert Saleh said. "He did a great job showing his versatility and mindset. He did a good job in the run game and in the pass game and didn't give up much. I'm really pleased with how he played."
Saleh said that he and the coaches had spoken with Vera-Tucker during the week about moving back to the left side. Much as he reacted in the preseason when Becton went down and he moved to the right, AVT simply absorbed the information and went to work.
"It speaks volumes about him, No. 1 as an athlete and No. 2, his mindset," Saleh said. "He doesn't flinch when a lot of guys would worry about how they look on tape. He's a team-first guy, he's not even worried about the tape because in his mind he's going to dominate. He stands for everything you think of as a football coach. He's added to his value in terms of what he's capable of."
See the best images from the Week 4 victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Jets to Face Dolphins' Bridgewater
Miami (3-1) announced on Monday that Terry Bridgewater would start at quarterback against the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday as Tua Tagovailoa continues to deal with the effects of a concussion. Bridgewater, who is now with his fourth NFL team, was with the Jets early in 2018, but was traded to New Orleans in August 2018 for a third-round draft pick.
"Teddy is the ultimate competitor," said Sheldon Rankins, the Jets' defensive lineman who played with Bridgewater in college at Louisville and also when they were both with the Saints. "He's a pro's pro. You know, he can run any offense, he can make all the throws.
"He can easily come in here and continue to keep that offense rolling and get the ball to the playmakers [Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle], which is what they want to do. So, it's not necessarily going to be easy. He's no slouch and there's not going to be a drop off." He added: "He's done it at a high level, and he's shown he can do it when given the opportunity. So for us, it's going to be about going in and treating them as we would treat any other high-level starting quarterback in this league."
Head coach Robert Saleh said that rookie T Max Mitchell, who left Sunday's game with a knee injury, is being evaluated. "I don't have a timetable," Saleh said. "There are a bunch of numbers floating around [about how much time Mitchell might miss], but the injury is not season-ending." He added that putting Mitchell on Injured Reserve, which would mean he would miss a minimum of four games, "is possible." ... Saleh also said that veteran T Duane Brown has been "working his tail off" and might get back on the practice field this week. Brown has been on IR with a shoulder injury. ... The coach also said that Vinny Curry, who has been on IR with a hamstring injury, will be evaluated on Wednesday and "we'll make a decision from there."