QB Zach Wilson, who was elevated to the Jets' backup spot on Monday, will start Sunday when the Green & White host the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium. Head coach Robert Saleh told reporters Friday that Mike White, who started the team's past three games, was not cleared for contact by team doctors after taking multiple shots to the ribs in a 20-12 loss to the Bills.
White, who was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, will again be limited Friday. He twice exited the Bills game after absorbing shots from DT Ed Oliver and LB Matt Milano. Before the Jets departed back for New Jersey, White underwent further evaluation at a local hospital and was cleared to travel. There is a chance White could play next Thursday against the Jaguars, but the short week will make it more difficult.
"Mike White was an absolute warrior and has been doing everything he could this week to try to find another opinion to get him onto the football field to find somebody who will clear him for contact," Saleh said. "He's exhausted every measure he possibly can because he wants to be out there. That opinion will not change, and it's gotten to the point where we could drag this out to Sunday. But this is one of those deals where we got to do what's best for the player and protect the player from the player."
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021, started seven games this season before he was moved to the No. 3 spot following a 10-3 loss to the Patriots. Saleh stressed that Wilson needed a "reset" and also said he intended for the second-year QB to play again this season. In seven starts, Wilson has completed 55.6% of his throws for 1,279 yards with 4 TDs and 5 INTs.
"The biggest thing for me mentally was finding the fun in football," Wilson said this week. "I love this game and it definitely wasn't lost, but I think you guys felt the frustrations over some of those rough games. So for me, it's I love this game, I'd play this game for free. So, it's going out there and just enjoying it with the guys and every single play just enjoying being out there and being grateful to be here and to be able to play football for a living, it's truly an amazing job."
After Wilson was a gameday inactive the past three games, Saleh said the decision to elevate him to No. 2 was made last Friday leading up to the Bills game.
"When he was elevated to the number two quarterback, it was with the understanding that there's a strong possibility that he was going to play and to prepare accordingly," he said. "He's gotten the vast majority of the first-team reps. He'll get all the reps today and get all the reps tomorrow. And so, we feel very comfortable about Zach's preparation as the first-string quarterback."
Wilson will line up against a Lions defense that ranks 31st in total yards allowed per game and 30th in passing yards allowed per game.
"He just has to focus on the moment," Saleh said of Wilson. "Every game is on the line, every play is on the line, every decision is on the line. And we feel like Zach has proven he's played very good football for us. We did go 5-2 with him at quarterback. Part of that are things that don't show up in the stat sheet with regards to the evading pressure, extending plays, taking care of the football. So, he's done a lot of really good things and he's continued maturation and growth. We've got all faith in him, but he's really just kind of focused on Sunday and Sunday alone."
Saleh added: "He's done a really nice job. I thought he's had two of his best throwing days in practice. Practice at the end of the day doesn't matter. We will do it on Sunday but felt like he's been he's been doing a really good job just finding completions and getting the ball to where he needs to with accuracy."
When asked Thursday if he'd be ready to play if White could not, Wilson said: "Yeah, absolutely. I mean that's my job as a quarterback is to make sure I'm always ready to go and trying to put this team in the best position possible."
See the top practice images leading up to the Week 15 matchup against the Lions.
Other Injury Updates
The Jets remain hopeful that star DT Quinnen Williams, who left last week's game against the Bills in the second quarter and did not return after sustaining a calf injury, will be active for Sunday against the Lions. Williams did not practice this week.
The fourth-year player had two sacks against the Bills before the injury and is having a career year with 11 sacks, 23 QB hits and 12 tackles in 13 games.
"He won't practice today, he's still going to be 50/50," Robert Saleh said. "D-linemen don't need to practice to be ready for a gameday. We're still hopeful."
WR Corey Davis remains in concussion protocol and has been ruled out. Davis left last week's game against the Bills in the first quarter.
Home Away From Home
Sauce Gardner has put down new roots with Jets since being selected No. 4 in April's NFL Draft, but the Week 15 matchup with the Lions at MetLife Stadium will have extra meaning for the rookie CB. Gardner was born and raised in Detroit and will have family and friends in East Rutherford for the game.
"A lot of people coming," Gardner said. "Probably double digits. But if we were playing in Detroit, it would have been a whole different story. Like, the majority of the stadium would have been my people. Triple digits."
The Cincinnati product could spend the afternoon matched up against Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. The USC product is 12th in the NFL with 898 yards receiving and fifth with 82 receptions. When Gardner was in high school, he watched St. Brown in Nike Football's The Opening Regionals and still holds the second-year wideout in high regard.
"He is a very quick and savvy receiver," Gardner said. "I enjoy watching the guy like that and can't wait to be able to just go against him."