Jets’ Zach Wilson needs to outperform Mac Jones in Year 2

At first glance, Robert Saleh’s scouting report on Zach Wilson’s improved physique — his shoulders are back and he’s not sagging — wasn’t exactly exciting. In general, for a player drafted by the Jets to end a Super Bowl drought spanning more than half a century, you’d hope for something more than, you know, “not caved in.”

Last but not least, Saleh’s account proved accurate as the Jets’ organized team activities began on Tuesday. Wilson had gained 13 pounds with the help of a nutritionist to tip the scales at 221. His shoulders were pinned back as he jogged across the Augusta National-style team’s emerald practice fields in his red No. 2 jersey. Yes, it’s important that his body matched his coach’s description, fat, the year after his work matched that description: thin.

The Jets are said to be muscular after a 4-13 season of nagging growing pains with a rookie head coach and quarterback spending most of their time catching their breath. They passed the draft with flying colors (we think) and considering the free agent signings, gave Wilson a much better chance of scoring points in Year 2.

Of course, the Jets still want to keep expectations low. If you told them today that they were going 7-10 on a schedule that could give them eight losses in their first 10 games, they’d probably book a confetti save.

To keep spring goals realistic, the second overall pick in the 2021 draft shouldn’t be too much to ask:

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) trains
Zach Wilson came to Jets Camp this year with more muscle.
Bill Kostron
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones participates in practice at the NFL's Foxboro practice facility
Mac Jones had an excellent rookie season with the Patriots.
AP photo

Zach Wilson was set to dub the fellow AFC East quarterback, whose new and improved physique has grabbed the headlines. He should be a better football player than Mac Jones.

While surpassing Buffalo’s Josh Allen, a legitimate league MVP contender, is unrealistic, it’s not too early for Wilson to be the second-best quarterback in the division, assuming he’s what the Jets tell us.

Up in New England, Jones reportedly dropped the same type of father body that Tom Brady arrived with more than two decades ago.

“His stomach’s gone and he’s looking really good,” receiver Kendrick Bourne said of Jones. “He’s definitely a pro now.”

The Patriots quarterback explained that he’s cleaned up his diet and championed proper sleep, wellness and lower body fat levels. good for him Jones was everything Bill Belichick could have hoped for and then some from the fifth pick of the 2021 draft quarterback.

But the Patriots have suffered a brain drain on offense, losing four assistants to Las Vegas, including new Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, the best offensive coordinator of his generation, and Bo Hardegree, who helped make Jones the league’s top rookie quarterback to shape. That leaves former Giants head coach Joe Judge and former Lions head coach Matt Patricia to help Belichick help Jones. Judge spent just one year of his career as an offensive assistant, working with New England receivers in 2019. Patricia last worked 17 years ago as an offensive assistant, as an assistant line coach for the Patriots.

Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Maybe none of that matters, and New England will go 11-6 because Belichick is Belichick and the pats are the pats. Or maybe this is a rare Foxborough opening for the Jets to take advantage of.

However, Wilson should take it personally that Jones completely outperformed him in Year 1, even if he says he didn’t.

“I’m not trying to compare my game to other quarterbacks,” Wilson said Tuesday. “I’m trying to look at what I did last year and what I filmed and how I can just keep improving at that. What Mac is asked of his coaches is probably different than what is asked of me. We all have different plans, different offenses, so I can’t sit there and compare what we’re trying to do with it.

These comparisons are still printed and broadcast. Jones made the playoffs, Wilson didn’t. Jones made it to the Pro Bowl, Wilson didn’t. Jones went 10-7 on his starts, Wilson went 3-10 on his. Jones completed 67.6 percent of his attempts and threw for 22 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, Wilson completed 55.6 percent of his attempts and threw for nine touchdowns and 11 picks.

On the plus side, Wilson delivered four rushing touchdowns for Jones and proved the superior athlete while competing with inferior teammates and coaches to the Patriots.

This time, the game shouldn’t develop too quickly for Saleh and his staff, and the talent gap between teams shouldn’t be that big. Wilson should benefit greatly from the presence of Garrett Wilson on the wing, Breece Hall in the backfield, Sheeten Tomlinson on the line, CJ Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert at the tight end, and a defense that added two first-round picks, Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson II.

“We’re definitely getting better,” Wilson said.

Your quarterback has no choice but to get better.

“You can tell his head is right,” Saleh said. “He’s in a great mental space. … He looks good. He’s confident. He smiles. He is vocal.

“You always notice that [confidence] They understand what they’re being asked by the volume of their voice, and it gets pretty loud.”

Saleh said it takes NFL players three years to figure things out, but it seems like Jones did it in a year.

Jones was drafted 13 overall and three quarterback spots after Wilson, who must spend the 2022 season reminding people why. Jets’ Zach Wilson needs to outperform Mac Jones in Year 2


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