Jets Quarterback Zach Wilson has been medically cleared to return and head coach Robert Saleh told reporters Wednesday that he is on track to make his first start of the season when the Jets meet the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
"If all goes well this week, absolutely," Saleh said of Wilson starting.
Wilson injured his right knee during a non-contact dive in the team's preseason opener at Philadelphia on Aug. 13 and subsequently underwent arthroscopic surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. On Sept. 7, Saleh told reporters Week 4 vs. the Steelers would be the earliest Wilson was expected to be available for game duty.
The Jets have gradually increased Wilson's workload on the practice field and last week the second-year signal-caller participated in individual and 7-on-7 periods. He'll be a full participant on Wednesday.
"The practice aspect of it was very important, the little 7-on-7s that we were able to steal throughout the last couple of weeks, kept him engaged," Saleh said. "He was fully involved in all the walk-throughs and the meeting, still able to get the extra work in with regards to throwing and putting strain on the knee. He's very comfortable, he's in a great mental state and everyone is very comfortable with where he's at physically. He's ready to roll."
Backup Joe Flacco started the Green & White's first three games, connecting on 59% of his passes for 901 yards with 5 TDs and 3 INTs. He grabbed offensive controls for the Jets after Wilson avoided an oncoming pass rusher against the Eagles on a scramble before his right leg gave out while moving to his left.
"I was feeling really good," Wilson said of his preparations for the season before the injury. "I felt like I had a lot of good practices underneath me that I didn't even look at kind of that way, but just kind of what was expected from me as a quarterback and just being consistent, taking care of the ball, understanding my reads, and then getting excited about trying to apply some of the new things that I've learned from the past year, so I was really excited about that stuff.
Saleh added: "He's in a good mental state. Like we all saw, he had a really nice training camp. He was getting better every day, so now it's just a matter of him getting out there and getting some game-time experience and finding ways to get better every single day. He's excited, we're all excited for him, but at the same time, it's not about him. It's about making sure we do our part that we run an efficient offense."
Wilson missed four games his rookie campaign after sustaining a PCL sprain in his right knee last October, but this summer's meniscus tear and bone bruise to the same knee were not related.
Wilson started 13 games in Year 1 and showed marked improvement down the stretch, totaling 9 TDs against 2 INTs in his final seven post-injury contests. He could rejoin an offense in Pittsburgh that will look dramatically different than the unit he lined up with when the 2021 regular season concluded in Buffalo last January. If he's active in Week 4, he'll get his second season underway against a Steelers team that has 10 days to prepare for the Green & White after their 29-17 loss at Cleveland last Thursday.
"It's really just exciting for him to get back on the football field," Saleh said. "It's been six weeks and there's a lot of different things that have to go around in terms of making sure we run an efficient offense from us as coaches, O-line, receivers running routes, everybody is involved. It is exciting to get him back out there, but at the same time, it's not all about Zach. It's making sure we're executing on all cylinders as we should every week."