Mike LaFleur was blunt when describing Zach Wilson’s performance against the Texans.
He saw the Jets rookie quarterback flash improvements in his first game back from a sprained PCL in his right knee, like controlling pre-snap movement and ensuring the offense was aligned properly at the line of scrimmage. He saw room for improvement too, especially with how Wilson and the offense faltered again early in the game and how Wilson’s eye progression — “one of many things we’re working on right now,” LaFleur said — wasn’t at the necessary speed.
It looked “like a 22-year-old who hasn’t played in a month,” LaFleur said before practice Thursday. But Wilson’s return for the 21-14 win, he added, is “going to be just huge, in terms of obviously just his development” heading into Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Wilson finished the Houston victory 14-for-24 with 145 yards and an interception, a stat line that contained his fewest completions across a full game this season but also, from LaFleur’s perspective, optimism that those numbers could increase as Wilson’s career, and this season, stretches on.
“That’s something that he had way more comfort in last week than he did in those first five or six weeks,” LaFleur said. “It was good to see that and continued improvement.”
Wilson started the first drive with an 11-yard completion to Keelan Cole slanting across the middle from the left side, but didn’t complete a pass for the rest of the opening quarter and the first eight minutes of the second. There’s not a single solution to Wilson’s early struggles, LaFleur said.
“If we did have the answer in terms of getting going faster, right away, we’d do it,” LaFleur said.
But even on plays that might end with incompletions, Wilson’s processing has continued to evolve.
It starts pre-snap, Wilson said, when he looks for indicators that foreshadow where he could throw on that play. Then, once he gets the snap, he needs to adjust quickly enough if defenses disguise their coverage and swap into a different scheme as the play develops. He doesn’t want to pivot too quickly, but doesn’t want to wait too long before progressing through the rest of his options either.
With footwork, it’s about striking a balance between becoming a “robotic” quarterback and one who can adapt when the pocket collapses, the play breaks down and he still needs to stay within the timing of the play — all while trying to translate the “feel” he had in college to the NFL.
Wilson’s next chance will come Sunday against an Eagles defense that relies heavily on its defensive linemen to generate pressure.
“Just be decisive, quick,” Wilson said. “When I feel that pocket closing, how can I get it out to my guys, let them make plays. The longer I hold onto that thing, that’s what they want us to do.
“So I gotta be able to go through my reads quickly, understand when to get it out and just play decisive.”
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