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Zach Wilson: 'I Had a Blast' in Leading Jets to Preseason Win over Packers

Rookie QB Directs 3 Scoring Drives, Completes 9 of 11 for 128 Yards & 2 TDs to TE Tyler Kroft

New York Jets' Zach Wilson throws during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Jets head coach Robert Saleh said rookie signal-caller Zach Wilson's goals for this afternoon's second preseason game at legendary Lambeau Field against the Packers weren't too complicated.

"It's the same as it's been," Saleh said. "Stack up the good plays, stack up the good days, take what the defense gives you and just play quarterback."

That's just what Wilson did, as he compiled a calm, cool, efficient and effective 29 minutes of first-half work in leading the Jets to a 17-14 halftime advantage over the Pack.

"I had a blast," Wilson said, referring not to his 1-on-1's with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers but to taking his next competitive step on his way to the NFL regular season. "It was just another day of being able to get out here, get some live looks and get that stadium feel. I had fun going through the whole process again."

The fun translated into Wilson's best-looking performance and his best statistical line yet. He produced three scores, 17 points in all, on his four drives, all in the first half's first 29 minutes. He completed nine of 11 passes for 128 yards, two touchdowns, both to TE Tyler Kroft, no INTs, no sacks and a crackling 154.7 rating.

"I thought Zach had good command, he was under control, he handled the pressure well, he was good in and out of the huddle," Saleh said after his Jets moved to 2-0 in the preseason with a pair of road wins. "He's been going through his progressions and he's been pretty good at that."

The day began in the midafternoon Wisconsin sunshine as Wilson hit three of his first four passes on the visitors' opening drive. The big connection was a third-and-8 laser to WR Corey Davis, who then continued after the catch for a 24-yard gain.

He kept up his early simpatico relationship on his next possession with Davis, hitting him with a 5-yard swing pass on first down, then easily flat-footing a toss to WR Jeff Smith for 6 yards and a first down. Those were his only throws on his second series that ended on a stonewalled third-and-1 run at midfield.

The Jets' third drive began at their 35 with 1:38 left in the opening frame. Wilson followed an 8-yard run wide left by Tevin Coleman with a play-action throw for Davis right, but the throw was low and incomplete, probably his worst throw of the day. But on third-and-3, he converted again, and again to Davis, for 14 yards.

Another Zach stat: That third-down completion and the earlier 24-yarder lifted Wilson to 5-of-7 for 66 yards and four conversions in his third-down passing.

But no time for high fives there. Wilson dropped back, and then back a little further, before finding, one more time, Davis waiting alone deep down the right sideline. The 27-yarder was Wilson's longest completion and Davis' longest reception as Jets and set the stage for the start of the second quarter — and for Wilson's first touchdown pass as a pro. Facing a second-and-12 from the GB-18, he dropped back and, again with good protection, lofted a ball for TE Tyler Kroft.

See Best Images from the Second Preseason Game of 2021 at Lambeau Field

It wasn't the prettiest pass Wilson ever threw, a little wobbly, a little high. But the 6-6 Kroft reeled the pass in, turned and bounced off a Packer and across the goal line.

"Zach had great touch on the ball today," Kroft understated.

With 3:27 left in the half and the Pack back on top, 14-10, Wilson came back out — after Corey Ballentine set the offense up at the Packers 30 with his 73-yard kickoff return up the middle.

Facing a true two-minute drill, Wilson needed only seven seconds to find Kroft again, this time on a play-action toss that the tight end took to the goal line, slipping one Packer tackle and busting through another attempt for his second score.

"What you saw today was more of the same of what we're seeing," Saleh said. "I know sometimes results are not what we want, but his process is lightyears ahead of what a normal rookie's process would be. The results some days will be good, some days will be bad. He's just got to find a way to get better when he sees both."

Wilson saw mostly fine results today and hopes quickly to see more in the week ahead in two practices and the final preseason game against the visiting Eagles.

"The joint practices were new for me," Wilson said of the past week's work in Green Bay, "but I was enjoying it. There was a lot of hard learning, just getting us ready to play in a real game. It's awesome for us, and I'm looking forward to joint practices next week."

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