Predictable. Dull. Repetitive.
Those words describe the Jets’ offense during the first three weeks of the season. Sunday will be the day to see if anything changes with Gang Green’s offensive attack.
After being cleared by doctors earlier this week, quarterback Zach Wilson will start against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wilson has been out the last six weeks due to a bone bruise and a meniscus tear he suffered during the Jets’ preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 12.
Four days later, Wilson flew out to Los Angeles to have surgery on his right knee. Before the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, the Jets ruled Wilson out until Week 4 as they wanted him to be right, physically and mentally.
“It’s just cool for him,” Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “Whether it’s Zach or anyone that’s missed time because of injury, you just want to see them on the grass. So, he gets to be out there. He put in a lot of work to put himself in this position to get back.
“I don’t think anyone really knew after the injury, particularly right when it happened, what was going to happen and how long he was going to be out. So, to get him back and going into Week 4 and I know he feels 100 percent healthy and he’s going to go play his game.”
The Jets offense needs Wilson like a camel could use water in a hot desert. In the three games Joe Flacco started for Wilson, Gang Green found the end zone just five times. Four of those came during the 31-30 victory against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.
Flacco is sixth in passing yards (901) but a lot of that came when the Jets needed to throw the ball down the field after being down multiple scores. An example of this is Flacco leading the league in pass attempts (155).
In last weekend’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco completed 28-of-52 passes as he threw for 285 yards and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times and lost two fumbles.
Wilson hasn’t played in nearly two months, but the Jets expect him to add another dimension to their offense. With his right knee 100%, Wilson can escape the pocket to evade pressure from defenders.
Wilson may need to be on the move against the Steelers as they love to bring pressure from linebackers and even their secondary at times. In three games, the Steelers defense has nine sacks, which ranks eighth in the league.
The offensive line right now is in chaos as left tackle George Fant was placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury. Gang Green is already missing Duane Brown, who is also on injured reserve because of his shoulder.
Conor McDermott will likely start at left tackle in Fant’s place. Wilson’s mobility will be an added addition to the Jets offense, and so will his rocket-like arm. At this point in his career, they’re certain throws Flacco cannot make that Wilson will be able to.
The Jets with Flacco used a lot of short passes because of his inability to move outside the pocket. Wilson has the arm strength to stretch defenses and create potential big plays.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said about Wilson possibly adding a spark to the offense. “Zach is the piece to the puzzle.
“There’s a lot of things we need to fix offensively, defensively and special teams and that’s our focus. Hopefully, we can all raise the level of our games and make a smooth transition.”
Wilson will join a Jets roster with more weapons than he had during his rookie season. Gang Green drafted running back Breece Hall to team up with Michael Carter and signed tight ends Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah. The team also drafted rookie Garrett Wilson, who has made instant dividends.
In three games, Wilson has caught 18 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets drafted the former Ohio State star to get Zach Wilson a down-the-field threat that can put pressure on opposing defenses.
The two players didn’t work together a lot throughout training camp. But they’re excited to build their chemistry throughout the season, starting against the Steelers.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Zach Wilson said. “I mean that’s what makes him special, and I think that’s not just him. We got a lot of guys that are like that.
“He’s a freak, he’s hard to stay in front of, he’s hard to throw the ball to sometimes because he’s faking me out. So, it’s getting that chemistry, watching those guys, and we’ve learned a lot about Garrett [Wilson] in the past weeks of having him on our team, so we’re starting to get comfortable with the way that he’s going to do things, and you can definitely trust he’s going to get it done.”