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What Do You Expect from QB Zach Wilson, Jets Offense vs. Cowboys?

Third-Year QB Will Make First Start for Aaron Rodgers in Week 2


Throughout the offseason, 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 do you expect from the Jets offense with Zach Wilson under center?

EA: There is a bit of unknown here because Zach Wilson has never been paired up with Jets OC Nathaniel Hackett in a regular season game following a week of first-team reps. What is known is the Jets have outstanding playmakers in Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall and I'd expect Hackett to continue to get them the ball. While Garrett Wilson's numbers were modest last week, he put points on the board with an amazing TD reception and Zach Wilson went 5-for-5 when targeting No. 17. It's hard to imagine Hall averaging 12.7 yards a carry again, but the Cowboys were just 22nd against the run last season (129.3 yds/g). Of the Jets' 42 offensive touches Monday, 30 went to the RBs (71%) and the Jets have a talented group. You'd figure the tight ends will be a big part of the game plan — both blocking and receiving — because the Jets must deal with Micah Parsons and a ferocious pass rush. If Wilson hits 1 or 2 down the field, that box will lighten. That's key. For the Jets to have a chance late, they can't turn it over and they must end each possession with a kick. Play clean and the Jets can go home 2-0.

EG: I expect the Jets to try and establish the ground game especially in what will be a hostile environment at Dallas in the Cowboys' home opener. Zach Wilson has improved since the last time he started a game. On Monday night, he looked calmer in the pocket and more in control while going through his progressions. But going from Aaron Rodgers, who has mastered offensive coordinator's Nathaniel Hackett's offense, to someone who has studied the scheme for less than a year is a big difference. I expect Hackett to dial up plays that suit Wilson's strengths whether that be with his arm talent or Wilson's legs. The Cowboys have a turnover-happy defense as the group has led the league in takeaways each of the last two seasons. That'll be a point of emphasis this week, which comes back to running the football. Breece Hall sprung loose in Week 1, but how will the backfield distribution be deployed between him, Dalvin Cook and Michael Carter?

See the best photos of the Jets during Thursday's practice of Cowboys week.

RL: At first, I see the Jets trying to crease the Cowboys' hats on the ground. Wilson has a good track record of handing the ball off to Breece Hall — Hall's 83-yard dash vs. Buffalo and last year's 34-yard touchdown at Green Bay and 62-yard TD at Denver were all on Zach handoffs. Dalvin Cook, despite some rust, had 10- and 15-yard plays vs. the Bills and appears ready for a return to form. But because of Wilson's experience in 2021-22 and his 1-on-1 tutoring from Aaron Rodgers, no doubt beginning this week, I don't see this being a "manage the game" scenario. Unless the Jets' pass pro is a major issue, Wilson will try to throw to Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard, not to mention Mecole Hardman, who went unused on opening night because of the play-calling shift after Rodgers' injury. The TEs could also be in play after Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah combined for just one catch and 2 yards on MNF. Most important will be for Zach to protect the ball, which he has improved on (11 INTs in his first 8 Jets games, 8 INTs in his last 15 games) but must do more of to help keep the Jets in this game for 60 minutes or more.

CH: I think Zach Wilson has improved a lot from last season, and I don't expect too much to change with him under center. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said it best this week when he said 'I just want Zach to be Zach.' Wilson doesn't have to try and be like Rodgers — he just needs to utilize his strengths and the weapons the Jets have on offense. I still expect the offense to perform at a high level. Last year, Wilson opened 5-1 leading the Jets before two key pieces of their offense went down in G Alijah Vera-Tucker and RB Breece Hall. With a new OC and Wilson having been mentored by Aaron Rodgers all training camp, I expect the transition to him under center not to be anything jarring. 

JP: Zach Wilson will make his first start of the season Sunday against a Cowboys club that has one of the best defenses in the league. I expect him to be poised, play risk-averse and ultimately give the Jets a chance to win a close game. The Dallas defense had arguably the best game of any unit in the league last Sunday. They held the Giants to 0 points, 63 pass yards and sacked Daniel Jones 7 times. Wilson is no stranger to playing against top-tier defenses. Last season, Wilson faced four top-10 defenses (total yards) and guided the club to a 3-2 record. In those matchups, Wilson completed 81-of-150 attempts for 959 yards and 4 TDs, and against the Steelers he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Berrios. During training camp, HC Robert Saleh said Wilson's confidence improved considerably in the offseason. Against the Bills on Monday night, Wilson replaced Aaron Rodgers, without having taken first-team reps during practice the week prior and performed well. He completed 14-of-21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown to earn a 22-16 win in prime time. With a full week of practices taking first-team reps, expect Wilson to be more composed and effective.

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