Will Zach Wilson find success in New York?

The hope is that a new tide is turning in New York. Coming off a treacherously unforgettable two-year span under Adam Gase, the New York Jets need a new direction. Early on, it seems as though general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh are in lockstep. However, for an NFL team that was historically bad on offense in 2020, it all truly comes down to the quarterback. Can BYU quarterback Zach Wilson find success with the New York Jets?

Jets wasting no time getting Zach Wilson involved

Less than two weeks ago, the Jets selected Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. Being such a high draft pick comes with immense pressure. But being trusted as the savior of a woe-begotten New York Jets franchise? That’s a different beast entirely.

It’s no surprise that the team is already putting Wilson to work at rookie minicamp. Along with fellow draft picks like wide receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter, Wilson has been diving into the playbook and simulating a game week for the Jets. By all accounts, he’s looked impressive in early practices, and he’s saying all the right things. Yet, what exactly is he up against in New York?

That’s one thing Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline discussed during the final Draft Insiders episode of the 2020-2021 NFL Draft cycle.

Will the change of scenery have a negative impact?

Wilson was born and raised in the West. He went to Corner Canyon High School and played football at Brigham Young, headquartered in Provo, Utah. While sedimentary rock formations rise like skyscrapers in the arid regions of the southwest, Wilson will be dealing with the real thing in New York. Beyond that, he’ll have many, many more eyes on him. Pauline, however, isn’t concerned, as he discussed on the podcast.

“He seems like a grounded guy. He seems to have a family that supports him. Granted, there’s obviously going to be a lot of distractions, but he seems to be committed to football. And I think, unlike [Sam] Darnold with [Adam] Gase and company, he seems to have the foundations of people that are going to keep him on a straightened path in New York. Now, there obviously are a lot of distractions. He was only a junior, so it’s going to be a ‘wait and see’ type of situation. I think the signs are hopeful, or promising at least, that he’s a ‘football first’ type of guy.”

Wingo brought up the change of scenery as a potentially impactful factor in Wilson’s performance. However, Pauline made clear that there are many other elements at play.

“I agree [that location matters], but I think it’s also the supporting cast around him and within the Jets organization. It’s also about playing good football. I mean, if they’re losing, and he’s not playing well, then the pressure’s going to build, and the pressure could build to the point where it breaks. But if he plays good football, continues to develop, and the Jets show signs of promise, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for Wilson.”

Will Wilson have the necessary help from his supporting cast?

As Pauline stated earlier, the Jets’ supporting cast matters a great deal in the Wilson discussion. Will Wilson have the necessary incubation to succeed, both among the coaching staff and the corps of weapons? Wingo asserted that the Jets did a solid job surrounding Wilson with talent early on in the 2021 NFL Draft. Pauline agreed and took it a step further by looking back at 2020.

“You know, they were terrible on offense last season, but the offensive players they took in April of 2020 also did very well. Mekhi Becton is going to be protecting Wilson’s blindside. Denzel Mims, who doesn’t have the speed of Elijah Moore, who they took at the top of Round 2, but he’s an outstanding possession receiver with excellent size.

“Really, this is just the second part. These are good pieces, but let’s not forget the guys they got last year. Plus, you’ve got new offensive coaches, a new offensive scheme, and you’ve taken Adam Gase out of the equation.”

Does New York finally have the right coach to groom a rookie QB?

While the memory of Adam Gase is preferable to his continued presence for Jets fans, it serves as a cautionary tale for coaches. The margin for error at the head coach position is truly a slim one. It’s hard to tell, at this point, if Saleh can take the Jets back to the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, Pauline is optimistic, and he says that Saleh can deliver in his duties as head coach.

“You can’t put a price tag on it. He is the most important part because he sets the culture. I mean, it starts with him. If there’s any breakdowns, it usually starts at the top. And there’s good reason, on paper anyway, for Jets fans to be excited because he seems to be the guy for the job, and he seems to have everything in line. He sets the tone. He sets the culture, and that will trickle down to the players, especially the young guys like Wilson.”

Things may be turning around for the Jets

Wilson is still learning the offense, and the Jets rookie is only being introduced to his NFL journey. Regardless, things seem to be starting on a good note. Saleh was complimentary of Wilson in a recent press conference.

“He did a really nice job,” Saleh said, per the New York Post. “The ball was in and out of his hands very crisp. He was in rhythm. He was on time. Players were running the right routes, and the ball was barely on the ground. It was a very good first day for him. Now, he’s got to stack it up and get better every day.”

Wilson has also expressed gratitude for his opportunity at rookie camp. He doesn’t have the uncertainty of an undrafted free agent weighing on his shoulders, but he does have a heavy load to bear in his duty as a franchise quarterback. Still, Wilson is taking it in stride. In fact, he’s already picked a new number for himself — No. 2 — not the No. 1 jersey that he sported at BYU.

“Yeah, just mixing it up, doing something new,” Wilson said of his number choice. “I like any single-digit numbers, and I think it’s kind of cool that I was the second pick. I think that’s kind of a cool reason to be able to switch it up.”

Perhaps there’s a hidden meaning in Wilson’s new number. The quarterback is one of the essential pieces, but the team ultimately comes first. When the team (executives, coaches, and players) fails, so too does the quarterback.

The Jets learned this the hard way with Sam Darnold. Yet, with Saleh and Wilson, they have a chance to right their wrongs.

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Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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