The Jets are taking the blame away from Zach Wilson after his third interception day

Rich ChiminiESPN staff writerSeptember 17, 2023 at 10:29 PM ET4 minutes to read

Robert Saleh praises Zach Wilson despite the Jets’ loss

Jets coach Robert Saleh breaks down Zach Wilson’s performance during the team’s loss to the Cowboys.

Arlington, Texas- The New York Jets’ first game without Aaron Rodgers was a disaster, as quarterback Zach Wilson threw three interceptions in a 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium. After that, the Jets rallied around trading Rodgers with confidence-building words and gestures.

In the locker room, wide receiver Garrett Wilson put his arm around the young quarterback and gave him words of encouragement. All three tight ends were there as well, showing support. It was an emotional scene, as the Jets (1-1) made sure no blame was placed on their former starter-turned-reserve.

“It’s easy to play the blame game on the quarterback,” Garrett Wilson said. “Honestly, this is the world we live in, where you look at the top guy — the main guy, the quarterback, the guy making the money — and then you point the finger. But we all know internally that we all have to make the right steps and get better.”

The Jets endured a tough six days, losing Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles injury and having to shift to a shortened week to replace Zach Wilson, who was demoted twice last season amid deep struggles. Except for one shining moment — a 68-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, who gained 55 yards after the catch — it was a dismal outing for the signal caller and the offense on Sunday.

The game ended with four turnovers in New York’s last five series, including interceptions on the final three possessions. An 18-10 halftime deficit turned into a blowout in the fourth quarter, which will undoubtedly add to the outside noise among those who want the front office to acquire another quarterback.

Zach Wilson completed 12 of 27 passes for 170 yards, throwing for just 76 yards in the second half. Coach Robert Saleh defended the performance, relieving Wilson of blame for the second and third interceptions.

“I thought he did a good job,” Saleh said. “Obviously late in the game, he had to force the ball to make something happen, and it obviously didn’t go our way. There was a miscommunication on one of his interceptions with him and the defense. They have hell of a front.”

“He did a really nice job in the pocket, extending the play, scrambling. He made a couple of nice plays out of schedule. It just wasn’t good enough.”

The Jets are exploring the possibility of adding a third quarterback, possibly as soon as this week, but have stated definitively that Wilson will be QB1. This was supposed to be a learning year for the 2021 No. 2 overall draft pick, but everything changed in Game 4 of Game 1 when Rodgers went down.

Wilson’s performance on Sunday was — at least statistically — strikingly similar to several games past. (He started the day with 16 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions during his career.) He is no stranger to adversity, but insisted he is better equipped to deal with it this time.

“Sure, man,” he said. “I feel like I’m seeing [the field] Well, I really do. It’s really unfortunate that this is shown to be a crime. “We have to be better, and I need to be better, but we are there.”

Wilson was under intense pressure, getting pressured on 16 of 30 dropbacks, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. (That doesn’t include his five scrambles for a team-high 36 yards.) Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was a force, recording two sacks and nine pressures. Wilson completed just two of 13 passes when pressured, continuing that trend. Since entering the league in 2021, he is the worst quarterback in the NFL when pressured, according to statistics.

But some of the pressure can be attributed to Wilson, who kept the ball too long at times. He had no support from the running game, as Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook combined for just 16 yards on eight carries. Cook also lost a fumble. The planes faced a lot of eight-man fronts. A quarterback with Rodgers’ experience would have been able to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

Hall seemed unhappy with his workload.

“I mean I only touched the ball four times. That’s why we struggled,” he said. “That’s what it is. We went down early today and gave up a run. That kind of thing happens. You feel like you have to get back in the game and things go away.”

This, coupled with uncharacteristic defensive struggles, put a lot of pressure on Wilson. But he doesn’t seem disappointed with his performance.

“It’s tough, man,” Wilson said. “I thought I was seeing things pretty good through the first three quarters of that game, but we just kept getting stuck.”

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