In two weeks, Jets QB Zach Wilson will take his first regular-season snaps in the NFL as the Green & White battle the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, NC. And while he will be pumped to play his first professional game, the rookie's mentality is not going to change.
"I'd say same mindset all around," Wilson said Sunday. "I feel like it's been kind of real the whole time as far as just understanding that it's the NFL and you have to attack it every single day because it's a grind. It's a tough process and you can have a couple of good days and then have a bad day. You have to keep stacking the days and understand that you got to bring it every single day."
Wilson brought it in preseason action, connecting on 15-of-20 for 191 yards with 2 TDs while leading the offense to four scores on his six possessions. He protected the football and wasn't sacked. While the results were promising, the tests are about to get significantly more difficult.
Head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson: "He's got to keep progressing, it's the same thing. Just like I mentioned from a coaching staff standpoint, he's going to learn so much as the year goes on. Every game is going to present a different challenge, he's going to get different looks, they're not going to be as vanilla. He's going to see more speed on the field with regards to the defense, he's going to see every week just being a different scheme. There are so many different things that are going to happen for him over the course of the year and he's just got to find ways to absorb the information, find ways to get better, take care of the football and do his best to put us in position to win football games."
A three-year starter at BYU, Wilson put himself in position to be the No. 2 overall player taken in the NFL Draft after completing 73.5% of his passes last season for 3,692 yards while amassing 43 TDs (33 pass TDs) and being intercepted just three times. Success on Saturdays might have looked easy, but it was the result of Wilson's grind throughout the week.
"I don't know how veteran quarterbacks do it in the NFL, but I kind of found something that works for me as far as making sure I get on the tape," Wilson said. "I sort cut-ups into a certain way and I watch games earlier in the week. I start to get more cut-ups as the week goes on and I kind of have a process of just overloading information as the week goes and at the end of the week, my process is now how can I give myself one to two things that's going to simplify the game for me and it's going to tell me exactly what's going on by one thing because you sit here and have all day to diagnose what's going on."
Early in training camp, there were days when the Jets offense was behind the defense and some of that was due to heavy installations. But Wilson never appeared rattled and he hit a stride as camp progressed. His production against mostly Giants and Packers reserves was good and his calm and poise were apparent as well. Sometimes the pace of the game can be too much for even the smartest of signal callers, but Wilson is quick processor.
"On the field, you have a couple seconds and you don't want to be sitting out there and overthinking anything," he said. "So, it's like how can I just simplify and that's part of my process. Taking all this information and simplifying it."
The work is just beginning for Wilson and he strives for improvement in every area.
"I want to keep getting better at is just the operation, making sure I'm commanding the huddle, getting guys in and out and then of course just moving the team up and down the field, avoiding turnovers and avoiding negative plays," he said. "There's always so much you can work on."
Over the next two weeks, Wilson will be asked a lot of questions about his team's matchup with his predecessor, Carolina QB Sam Darnold. He'll take those inquires in stride because his focus will be on the Panthers' defense and every possible situation that can happen on Sep. 12.
"Yeah, it's typical by the NFL," he said of the intriguing Week 1 headline with the quarterbacks. "It's exciting, that's what people want to watch, right? That's what people want to see. We're in the entertainment business, and that's what's fun and it's fun for us as well. I'm sure Sam is excited as well. He's a great player and I'm just excited to go out there and play those guys, it's going to be a good matchup."
See the Best Images from Sunday's Preseason Practice at 1 Jets Drive