New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson battles the ‘Mahomes Effect’ – New York Jets blog

October 20, 2021

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – In the worst game of his life, the New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson made one of the most unlikely finishes of the NFL season.

In the final quarter of a Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots, who intercepted four of their first 10 pass attempts, Wilson pulled himself together and fired a 27-yard shot at Braxton Berrios on a deep corner path against a defense. Cover-2 – – over the corner and under the lock. Taking into account all the factors: aerial distance, shooting time and amount of separation between the receiver and the closest defender (less than a yard), the probability of completing the game was 14%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Of the 4,366 completions over six weeks, only five had a lower probability of completion than Wilson-to-Berrios. That pitch, a direct dropback without improv in the schoolyard, showed that Wilson can be an effective pocket passer. What you have yet to prove is the ability to do it consistently.

Industry insiders are wondering if it’s the “Mahomes effect” – a young quarterback trying to make spectacular pitches off the shelf that end up as viral videos on social media. Wilson played that way at BYU, drawing comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but he can’t live in that world as a professional. Hell, even the great Mahomes is struggling this season with turnovers (eight picks).

Five games is a small sample for any rookie, let alone a quarterback, but the league has seen enough of Wilson to form two conclusions:

  1. The guy has a special talent.

  2. You are still learning how and when to use it.

The second overall pick is struggling. His interception total (nine) leads the league, his completion percentage (57.3) is 31st out of 32 qualified passers and his total QBR (22.6) ranks 32nd, behind four other rookie qualified. Has 32 more pass attempts than an unannounced rookie Davis Mills, the Houston Texans’ third-round pick, but one less touchdown pass (four).

“Zach is what I thought he would be,” said an AFC scout. “The game is moving fast for him, which is normal. It’s difficult to make plays in both phases without (tackling Mekhi) Becton. It’s inaccurate, but he’s still a gunman.”

Outside of the phone booth, that is, the confines of a congested pocket, Wilson may be Superman. Turn engineered displays and impromptu riots into standout movie sets. But inside the phone booth, he’s Clark Kent, a bit clumsy and not as dynamic as his alter ego. The statistics back it up:

Inside pocket: He is 88 of 141 (62.4%) for 956 yards, two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 19.8 QBR, the league-low, by far the worst among qualified passers, according to ESPN Statistics and Information data.

Out of pocket: He is 10 of 30 (33.3%) for 161 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 38.0 (20 of 32) QBR, not great, but proportionally better than his pocket efficiency.

Former NFL defensive back and current ESPN analyst Matt Bowen is encouraged that there are “a lot of recorded signs of his natural features as a pitcher,” confirming the pre-draft hype, but he believes Wilson is still overcoming some college habits. .

“From a coach’s perspective, you’re saying, ‘Okay, this young quarterback is extremely talented. Now we have to refine some of the inexperience that you will naturally expect and some of the negatives that we see in the tape that he transferred.’ ‘. from college,’ “Bowen said. “In some cases, he goes back to some things he did at the college level at BYU.

“There are a lot of unnecessary movements. His feet are constantly moving. Look, you want your quarterback to move inside the pocket, but I think there are times when he gets on an unstable launching pad. I think he did it in college. Because he could. Just that: because he could. He was more talented than most of the competition he faced. That gets you in trouble sometimes at this level. “

Bowen said Wilson must find a balance, which means he must learn to escape from the pocket only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you will interrupt the timing of the passing routes and delete your back readings.

Instead of escaping, it should try to slip and reset itself inside the pocket, Bowen said. Wilson made a concerted effort to do that on training ground, executing the plays the way they were written. That was the best way to learn offense, he thought, knowing that he could always call on his instincts off the platform if all else fails.

Bowen pointed to the Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, who, in the same offensive system, needed a year to get comfortable. In 2019, his first season with coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers played too often “outside the box” of the scheme, according to Bowen. He still played well, come on, it’s Aaron Rodgers, right? – but followed up with an MVP performance in 2020.

Keep this in mind when evaluating Wilson, who was 6 years old when Rodgers broke into the league.

“Zach has a lot of talent, a lot of potential,” said a defensive player who faced the Jets this season. “He’s athletic as hell and you can tell the guy’s arm strength is top notch. I mean, he can do almost every pitch on the field and make it look effortless. I definitely think it could be something like [Buffalo Bills quarterback] Josh Allen in the future. “

Reminding him that Wilson played badly in his game, the defensive player said: “Other things have to work in his favor. The O line has to hold him and give him a little time to feel safe back there. Wide receivers have to stop. open up and also catch the ball when they open up. The scheme has to be tailored to the player. It’s more than just him and his game. I’m not saying the Jets don’t have all of those things. I’d just say it’s not him as an individual that isn’t there. running right now. “

It’s funny that I mention Allen. Statistically, Wilson’s first five starts are eerily similar to Allen’s first five in 2018, as Jets coach Robert Saleh noted.

Wilson, who spent time during the off week working with his personal trainer, former NFL quarterback John Beck, said he’s “overthinking” some of his pitches, especially so-called tricks. Your mind has to be spinning. First came the edict from his coaches to be “boring.” He is now in “let ‘er rip” mode, confident that he can increase his efficiency in the last 12 games.

It won’t take long to find out if he’s right. Next up is a rematch against the Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at Gillette Stadium, where Wilson will get a chance to prove he’s not the same overwhelmed rookie he was in Week 2.

“I know it can be frustrating at times when we look at some of these things and it’s like, ‘God, I should be doing these pitches,'” Saleh said. “It’s going to start clicking.”

Bowen scored a handful of plays in which Wilson demonstrated next-level skill and awareness. The most recent example came in the Week 5 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a 27-yard finish for Denzel Mims on an entry route in the middle of coverage of the area. It was a good read, good anticipation and “a great pitch,” Bowen said.

It came from his pocket, not from one of his riots in the schoolyard. Few quarterbacks have the ability to throw a dime while sprinting like Wilson has done a couple of times. It’s a gift.

And sometimes a curse.