Jets head coach Robert Saleh on Tuesday put to rest any lingering questions when he announced that Zach Wilson would be the starting quarterback against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night.
"Mike [White] has not been cleared for contact," Saleh said. "Zach is the starter. With Mike, there's no point in dragging things out."
White missed last Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions with bruised ribs, which he sustained after two shots to his midsection at Buffalo on Dec. 11. White has been evaluated by team and outside doctors since but has yet to receive the green light to return to contact. White has been a limited participant in practice this week, but Wilson has been taking all the reps with the first-team offense.
"Zach knows how to prepare like he's the No. 1," Saleh said. "He was of that mindset of being the starter after getting all the reps yesterday. For Zach, it's always helpful to get all the reps. He's had that."
Returning to the lineup against the Lions in Week 15, Wilson completed 18 of 35 for 317 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT and was sacked four times.
"We get to get back on the field so quickly," Wilson said of the Thursday's game. "I think the guys are very excited for this opportunity just to get back on the field. I know I'm extremely excited just to get back on the field and get after it again and it's going to be a good match up."
Wilson was inactive for three games while he worked through a "reset," in Saleh's words. After the Buffalo game, he was elevated to No. 2 among the Jets three quarterbacks as he improved his fundamentals and addressed his coaches' concerns. When White was ruled out of the Lions game, Wilson (who had been 5-2 as a starter) was back in a familiar position -- taking snaps from center Connor McGovern. Wilson completed 7 passes of 20-plus yards against Detroit including plays of 33, 40 and 50 yards in the first half.
"I think you guys saw the big plays that we had offensively, and I think those are always a plus that it's hard to get in the NFL," Wilson said. "But how consistent can we be with the first and second down, just playing manageable football and once you add those explosive plays, how good you can be as an offense."
On Monday, Saleh commented on what he called the "instant coffee world," where results are expected, well, instantly.
"You've got to be patient with the quarterback," he said. "There's a balance because there's 52 other guys on the roster. No one's gonna give up on someone just because it feels like if it doesn't show up in Year 1 or Year 2, it's like we're moving on. It's a completely different position and I get it.
"Just one that pops in my head is when I think of Quincy Williams, and you know, he's a linebacker and like the young man who played nickel at a small school -- it takes time. And the quarterback position takes time. There are quarterbacks through the history of time that needed a little bit longer to find the groove and so when you see Zach he's got a lot of things that you just can't teach. You can't teach some of the stuff that he does. And, and for him, it's just learning the timing and the rhythm aspect of it, the intermediate pass game and just finding all that consistency for four quarters.
"Because what it is, when he is in rhythm and he is hitting on all cylinders, it's pretty cool. It's pretty cool to watch. So, again, it's the balance of you're always trying to win football games first. And you hope that development is happening all at the same time."
Saleh said that Wilson, despite some ups and downs, played a strong game last Sunday which included a go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter.
"There's ebbs and flows all the time, every quarterback that goes through them, it's very rare that you just have a perfect game all the way through," Saleh said. "And you know, Zach is growing. He's growing with this team, he's growing with all of us.
"So again, it's a matter of reps. And the more he sees it, the faster he'll play. The faster he plays, the faster they'll get the ball out and just everything happens faster as things happen faster. As things happen faster, his natural playing ability will come into play because he's not thinking and to get to a world where you're playing without thought. You've got to get reps. He just needs time. He's got the skill set."