Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange, Caroline Hendershot and John Pullano will give their responses to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What are your expectations for Zach Wilson in his return to the lineup?
EA: The Jets want to get Zach Wilson in his comfort zone as early as possible. HC Robert Saleh said this week that Wilson can put together "something special" if he can start fast and get better from there. Wilson, who will return to the lineup following his two-game demotion, gains comfort as the game goes on. I liked his second-to-last start against the Raiders back in Week 10 when he threw for 104 yards in the first half and added 40 on the ground. The Jets were inches away from having a commanding lead but settled for field goals as they were victimized by key penalties and Wilson's 23-yard score on the ground was reversed when he was ruled out of bounds at the LV 2. Even in his third-to-last start, a 27-6 loss to the Chargers, the Jets were in plus-territory on two of their first three possessions only to have those drives end with turnovers on fumbles. The Jets had six possessions in that game that reached LAC territory. Wilson gives the Jets their best chance to win. There were plays to be made last week in the pass game and Texans are just 26th defending the pass (245.2 yds/g). I think the Jets come out in attack mode Sunday and Wilson lets it hang out.
EG: I expect Zach Wilson to try and cut it loose early against a Texans defense that ranks No. 26 in passing yards per game, allowing 245.2 yards per game. Robert Saleh said earlier this week, "the biggest thing for Zach, just let the thing rip, trust in your ability." There were opportunities to push the ball downfield last week against the Falcons at MetLife Stadium and I could see OC Nathaniel Hackett and Wilson trying to strike again. The potential inclement weather, however, could hinder the ability to really air it out. Wilson's home numbers are better than the road – he's thrown for 3 touchdowns and 1 interception (6 picks on the road) and has an 81.0 passer rating (64.8 on the road). I expect him to play around the same level considering he's played defenses at MetLife that are statistically better than Houston's (Buffalo, New England, Kansas City).
RL: Rather than expectations, I have great hopes for Wilson against the Texans and for the final five games of the regular season. I hope he has more fun, as he said he wants. I hope he continues to not throw interceptions, cuts back (with the help of his blockers) on strip sacks, produces three-plus touchdown drives (his season high is two vs. KC), reestablishes connections with Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Tyler Conklin, Breece Hall and all his skill players, leads the offense to 350-plus yards, approaches or exceeds 50% on third-down conversions, and scrambles for a few more 20-yard gains (he had a pair of 20s at Las Vegas). If all these hopes are realized, Z. Wilson and the Jets should have an enjoyable day against the Texans in their penultimate home game of the season.
CH: I look forward to seeing Zach Wilson return to the lineup. When he spoke this week, he seemed to be excited to get back out on the field. Wilson said his approach to Sunday needs to be "aggressively smart" and that means that when he sees something he is going to trust it. He understands that mistakes are going to happen, but when you trust what you see good things will happen. I think a good case of Zach Wilson trusting what he sees and playing aggressively smart was when the Jets played the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4 and only lost by 3 points. Wilson was 28 of 39 with 245 passing yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. He didn't throw any interceptions and had a 105.2 passer rating, the highest of his career. I think a part of what helped Wilson play so loose in that game was that the Chiefs got up by 17-0 within the first quarter, and Wilson was playing with no fear of making a mistake. Wilson added that he is "going to have more fun than I have ever had" this Sunday, and I think that mindset is going to serve him well in his return.
JP: With an opportunity to take a step back from the game and observe from the sideline in his two weeks as the Jets emergency third quarterback, I think Zach Wilson will return to field Sunday aggressive and ready to stretch the field. Wilson said he stayed sharp during his two weeks out of the lineup pretending as though he'd be the starter. As a result, he'll need little to no time to adjust to game action. While he was away, the Jets offense produced 6 points in two games and offensive's air yards per pass attempt dipped to 6.6, which would rank 31st in the NFL this season. Over Wilson's first 10 games (9 starts) this season he ranked 20th in air yards per attempt (7.5). HC Robert Saleh told reporters when asked about his expectations for Wilson this week, said he wants him to go out and "let it rip." Wilson ranked ninth in the league in air yards per pass attempt (9.0) last season but struggled with turnovers -- 8 in 9 starts. This season, Wilson has been better at protecting the ball and there are hopes he will give the Jets offense the "spark" Saleh has been in search of.