Throughout the season, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What's your take on the rookie seasons of Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence?
EA: Challenging. Expectations go through the roof after the Chargers' Justin Herbert, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, went out with a blowtorch and lit up defenses his rookie season. Wilson rode the roller coaster early on, tossing four interceptions against New England in Week 2 and then exhilarating fans with his 297-yard, 2-TD effort in an OT upset of the Titans in Week 4. He sustained the PCL sprain and missed four games and has done some good things in his return while accounting for 5 TDs (3 rush TDs) and he hasn't been intercepted in his past 81 attempts. The Jets have started hot out of the gate two of the past three games and there are clear signs of progress under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Lawrence already has major hurdles to clear considering his first NFL head coach, Urban Meyer, was fired after 13 games. The Jags had season-ending injuries to key skill-position players and Jacksonville has struggled in pass protection. Lawrence led a pair of late scoring drives to help the Jags beat the Dolphins, 23-20, in London, but he has 1 TD and 6 INTs in his last seven games. Both remain big-time talents and will be forever connected, but they'll enter Year 2 in different situations. Wilson and the Jets, whose assistant coach tragically lost Greg Knapp died before training camp, will run LaFleur's system for a second consecutive season and they will continue to add pieces around him. The Jags head into their offseason with a number of questions and Lawrence will be starting anew yet again as a pro sophomore
EG: I think it's shown that it's typical for rookies to struggle, particularly quarterbacks. It's not easy to be a Day 1 start in the NFL in what many people refer to as the most important position in sports. There are obviously the exceptions most recently Justin Herbert last season, but a lot of the NFL's best quarterbacks did not start from the jump. I'm not comparing Zach Wilson or Trevor Lawrence to any of these quarterbacks I'm about to use as examples, but Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes all sat their rookie seasons. Rodgers threw 16 passes, Brady 3 and Mahomes started Week 17 in a game after the Chiefs had already clinched a playoff berth. I want to reiterate I'm not comparing Wilson or Lawrence to any of these quarterbacks, but I think it's important to note that a handful of the NFL's best signal-callers all took time to develop. Then there are players like Bills QB Josh Allen, who made an astronomical leap from Year 2 to Year 3. As a rookie, Allen completed 52.8% of his passes and threw for 2,074 yards, 10 TDs and 12 INTs. Long story short, I think Wilson's and Lawrence's play have been par the course even though a lot of people -- both fans and media -- are quick to judge. I'm excited to see the No. 1 and No. 2 overall pick face off on Sunday, marking the fourth time since 1967 the first two picks in the draft have led their teams against each other in their rookie year.
RL: Both need a lot of work. Yet while they're near the bottom of most NFL QB rankings, each has shown flashes of good things that each can be. Lawrence, for instance, leads the longer drives so far, solidly. And he's better in TD drives but only slightly — for Lawrence, 1.5 TD drives/game and 14.2% TD drive rate to Wilson's 1.4 and 13.7%. Yet Wilson lately has improved with 7 TDs and 65 offensive points to Lawrence's 3 TDs and 37 points. Both have thrown bunches of INTs, yet in terms of turnovers, Wilson has been better lately with 3 giveaways the last 4 games. Lawrence was the better scrambler early, but Wilson showed some of his escapability with saving runs vs. the Saints and the Dolphins, and 3 TDs the last month. Both are in the NFL basement in most three-and-out drives. But to be fair, both QBs, and Wilson in particular because I've seen him more, need health and maturity at the positions around them on offense. That's not an excuse, just an observation, that when the teams meet again — possibly as soon as 2022 at MetLife — the two QBs will have more talent to work with and that both will look a lot more productive as NFL sophomores, both qualitatively and quantitatively.