Zach Wilson was selected second overall by the New York Jets in 2021. In the process, he became the highest drafted BYU player in program history.
Needless to say, the pressure was on right from the start.
Unfortunately, Wilson dealt with plenty of adversity in his rookie year in the NFL. The Jets, as a whole, were a terrible football team. They ranked 28th in scoring offense and dead last in points allowed on defense.
Wilson certainly is not free of blame for the Jets’ poor play and 4-13 record. Among 33 qualified passers last season, Wilson ranked dead last at 33rd in passer rating and completion percentage. He frequently missed easy, high-percentage throws. However, he did finish a lot stronger than he started, with three games of at least an 80.0 passer rating in his final four games including going toe-to-toe with Tampa Bay and Tom Brady in the penultimate game of the season, holding his own. He also made some highlight-reel worthy throws down the stretch, showing off his immense arm talent.
Zach Wilson goes DEEP! 53-yard TD for the Jets!— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 3, 2021
Now, Wilson and the Jets turn the page to a brighter future. The 2022 offseason has been about building around the former BYU passer to set him up for what everyone hopes is a breakout year in his second season as a pro.
First, in free agency, they addressed the offensive line in front of Wilson, a unit that was 29th in sacks allowed last year. They signed guard Laken Tomlinson, who is coming off of a Pro Bowl season in San Francisco. They retained receiver Braxton Berrios, who was a First Team All-Pro kick returner last year and made splashes in the passing game as well. Perhaps the biggest addition in free agency was adding C.J. Uzomah, former favorite tight end of AFC champion Joe Burrow. He had just under 500 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the regular season and was instrumental in helping the Bengals reach the Super Bowl. He is now a possible security blanket for Wilson in New York.
The Jets arguably were the team that “won” the 2022 NFL Draft. The real winner may be Wilson himself. The team had three first round picks and four selections in the top 36 slots. They used them on what most assume is the top cornerback in the draft in Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, which should instantly improve the pass defense. They used the 10th overall pick on Ohio State star Garrett Wilson, a top receiver in this draft class. He could develop into Wilson’s (the quarterback) favorite weapon.
They moved back into the first round to snag one of the best pass rushers in this class, Jermaine Johnson at 26th overall. They capped it off by adding Iowa State running back Breece Hall early in the second round. Most had him as the top running back in the draft.
They also selected Ohio State’s tight end in Jeremy Ruckert, adding to Wilson’s bevvy of weapons.
In review, on offense, the Jets added
- 2021 Pro Bowl guard (Tomlinson)
- AFC champion tight end (Uzomah)
- No. 1 WR in the draft (Wilson)
- No. 1 RB in the draft (Hall)
Plus, the additions they made on defense should benefit the offense in turn. The defense can allow the offense to not have to play from behind so often, which disrupts the game plan. Frankly, the excuses are running thin for Wilson not to succeed in 2022. This is a pivotal year for the young signal caller. If he continues to struggle and make the same mistakes he did as a rookie, the groans in New York will grow louder. However, if he shows marked improvement, the Jets could be well on their way to a successful rebuild under head coach Robert Saleh.