Life often has been described as a bowl of cherries. But in the world of professional football and in the canon of Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh, studying and preparing for the NFL is more like eating a bowl of cereal -- at least in the telling of rookie QB Zach Wilson.
"If you're watching TV and eating a bowl of cereal, learning the plays, the formations and the alignments is kind of like eating a bowl of cereal," Wilson said. "You're not really sitting there thinking about eating, lifting the spoon up to your mouth and chewing. It just naturally happens."
Doing what comes naturally for Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in April's NFL Draft, was on display at the Jets Atlantic Training Center in Florham Park, NJ, last week during the team's start of OTAs.
"It's really just a day at a time," Wilson said last Thursday. "Compared to Day 1, I feel like, not just me but everybody's playing faster, being able to react more. Not necessarily thinking so much. I think that's the hardest thing when you're installing an offense.
"I feel like I'm doing well. It's definitely going to be a challenge. I'm excited for it. But it's really just taking a day at a time. If frustrating things happen in practice, maybe because you were slow on one read to the next or whatever it is, but you've got to understand that it's going to be a process and just kind of take it day by day and keep learning and just doing your best."
Wilson performed well in the team's 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Perhaps the highlight was a lofted touch pass that went over the head of a defender and fell into the arms of Keelan Cole, signed as a free agent, for a 20-yard gain.
At this early stage, with minicamp coming up in June ahead of training camp toward the end of July, Jets coaches said they have been impressed by Wilson's dedication and smarts.
"He's a junkie," said offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. "I mean, he just wants film to the face. I'll talk to my brother [Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur] and he's like, 'You better not burn this guy out. You're taking a lot of film with him.' And it's like, 'he's the one that wants to watch this film, you know?' So it's unique and it's cool for us to watch him be able to sit there and stay focused and process all the information we're trying to give him.
"When he first got here, he wanted to ask questions that were probably two questions away. And I said, 'Well, let's get that formation down.' And he was like, 'Oh, no, I can do that on my own. I've got that stuff down.' And he would — any quarterback would. But he wanted to do that on his own. He wanted to learn the stuff that there's no way he could learn on his own, so he wanted to hear it from us so he can process all that."
Saleh echoed the comments of his OC, saying: "He's relentless, in terms of his want for knowledge and in terms of studying. He's got a lot of horsepower in his mind. And he's not afraid to use all of it.
"He looks good. His arm's live. ... There's going to be ebbs and flows with him, but we're really excited about what he's shown so far."
Since he arrived in New Jersey, Wilson has done a bit of traveling. He attended an Islanders NHL playoff game on Long Island with some of his new teammates. He's also, as befits a 21-year-old in a new environment, been trying to get the lay of the land in a world of highways and notorious New Jersey drivers.
"There's definitely some aggressive drivers here, that's for sure," Wilson said with a laugh. "I'm getting used to that — getting cut off everywhere you go."
But once he gets home, there's always that film and a bowl of cereal waiting.
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