New York Jets OTAs takeaways: Zach Wilson’s up-and-down day, Jordan Whitehead and D.J. Reed draw praise from coaches

The New York Jets hosted an open organized team activity (OTA) workout on Wednesday. QB Zach Wilson had an up-and-down day.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The peaks and valleys of Zach Wilson’s early maturation as the New York Jets starting quarterback were put on display on Wednesday during organized team activities.

Wilson threw four consecutive incompletions to begin team drills during the workout. However, after that initial set of misfires, the second-year QB found his groove, consistently hitting receivers over the middle.

Zach Wilson’s up-and-down day at New York Jets OTA

Wilson’s first completion during 11-on-11 drills came on a shot to the sideline to wideout Elijah Moore, who beat veteran cornerback D.J. Reed in coverage. The completion ended Wilson’s first segment of team drills and allowed him to finish on a positive note.

Wilson completed just 55.6% of his passes last season as a rookie. While the young QB has a noted cannon for an arm and electric mobility to match, his inaccuracy during his first NFL season was concerning, as was his 9-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Three of the first four incompletions were off the mark, while the other was a clear throwaway after Wilson was flushed out of the pocket.

In a positive sign, Wilson returned to the field and found some consistency following four consecutive completions by backup Joe Flacco (more on that later). Wilson fired a shot over the middle to Moore and connected with slot receiver Braxton Berrios on a crossing route. His final throw of 11-on-11 drills, a heave to a “go” route to wideout Corey Davis, sailed over the playmaker’s head.

Wilson, again, bounced back in 7-on-7 work. His first throw, a dart over the middle to tight end Tyler Conklin, was on the money but dropped. But Wilson was quick to push the ball down the field on the next throw, connecting with first-round rookie Garrett Wilson near the hashes for a 10-yard gain. Wilson then targeted wideout Tarik Black on a comeback route toward the sideline. To follow up that completion, Wilson threw to running back La’Mical Perine in the flat and wideout Jeff Smith on the sideline.

Wilson finished 3 for 7 in 11-on-11 drills and 5 for 8 in non-red-zone 7-on-7 drills. He also threw a touchdown pass to running back Ty Johnson during the 7-on-7 red-zone work.

Prior to practice, PFN asked head coach Robert Saleh about the traits that made Wilson the Jets’ top pick last offseason and how those qualities have evolved over the past year in the system.

Joe Flacco makes it look easy

Flacco looked like the 14-year veteran QB that he is on Wednesday. He started 11-on-11 drills with four consecutive completions over the middle. His first throw of the session was a short pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah. However, due to Flacco’s accuracy and timing in leading the tight end to the ball, Yeboah had tons of room to run as he streaked roughly 40 yards down the field untouched.

He then connected with tight end Trevon Wesco on a rollout throw to his left. He connected again with Yeboah over the middle and then hit Moore on a swallow cross.

During 7-on-7 drills, Flacco had the throw of the day, connecting with Berrios on a deep crossing route for a 40ish-yard touchdown. Flacco made it look effortless as he heaved the ball down the field for a scoring strike, and Berrios tracked the ball well as he caught the pass in stride.

Flacco was second in the QB pecking order on Wednesday and is likely to hold onto that spot on the totem pole throughout the year. He will spend his first full summer with Wilson and look to mentor him as the No. 2 QB.

Mekhi Becton, George Fant not working out

The Jets were without starting offensive tackles Mekhi Becton and George Fant during the workout. Becton is missing the voluntary workouts following the birth of his child, while Fant underwent a knee scope this offseason. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said he spoke with Fant last week and noted that the veteran is working out in Florida.

Defensive end Carl Lawson, who is coming off an Achilles injury, also remained off the field. Third-round pick tight end Jeremy Ruckert was on the field but did not participate in drills because he is still recovering from the foot injury he suffered during the Senior Bowl in February.

Fellow tight end C.J. Uzomah was also held out of the workout but was seen riding a stationary bike on the sideline. Uzomah suffered a knee injury during the AFC Championship Game but still made it back to play for the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl in February.

Quick hits from Jets OTAs

  • Flacco had a pass bounce off the hands of a receiver during 7-on-7 drills, and safety Jovante Moffatt took advantage with an interception. The pick followed Flacco’s touchdown throw to Berrios.
  • Cornerback Rachad Wildgoose broke up a pass from Wilson to Davis during the final grouping of 7-on-7 drills.
  • Jets running backs coach Taylor Embree put his players through an interesting receiving drill. The coach would toss two side-armed passes with the running back simply standing, and then the player would take off for another pass in the flat. The catch hat-trick drill seemingly emphasized timing, coordination, tracking ability, and hand consistency.

  • Third-string QB Mike White completed 2 of 3 passes during 11-on-11 drills.
  • Reed, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract with the Jets this offseason, looks to be a feisty player. Saleh spent time with Reed in San Francisco, and the head coach complimented his effort before the workout. Saleh said that when he studies Reed’s film, “You can almost hear him grunting on tape, and it’s on mute.”
  • After the workout, Reed said this is the best corner group he’s ever played with. Reed is playing boundary corner on the right side, despite being just 5-foot-9 and 193 pounds. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Reed makes up for his lack of size with his intangibles.
  • Ulbrich was effusive in his praise of new safety Jordan Whitehead. Ulbrich said Whitehead has been a mentor to younger players and a very strong presence in the locker room since joining the Jets on a two-year, $14.5 million this offseason. Ulbrich noted that Whitehead’s work off the field will help the secondary on it. According to Ulbrich, “There’s no wrong page when we’re all on the same page,” and Whitehead’s presence at safety is “huge” for communication in the defensive backfield.
  • Ulbrich said first-round rookie defensive end Jermaine Johnson’s “knowledge of the game is probably better than most rookies.” Ulbrich also stated Johnson’s technique is advanced for his station in the NFL. Additionally, the coordinator noted Johnson’s unique size and speed are an advantage.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.

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