FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The New York Jets are entrusting their dwindling playoff hopes to Zach Wilson, who will be the starting quarterback against the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night.
Coach Robert Saleh, who announced the decision on Tuesday, made it sound like he didn’t have much of a choice. Mike White, who broke his ribs nine days ago and sat out Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, was not acquitted by doctors, Saleh said.
They haven’t ruled out White for the last two games, with Saleh calling it “a weekly assessment”.
The Jets (7-7) have lost three straight games and have just a 13% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics. Your overall standings will likely affect next week’s quarterback pick. If they are still in contention and White is released for contact, it would set the stage for an important decision.
For now, Saleh is doing his best to rally around Wilson, who is off to an uneven start against the Lions with a 20-17 loss.
“There are quarterbacks in the history of time that just took a little longer to find their groove,” Saleh said. “So when you see Zach, he has a lot of things that you just can’t teach. You just can’t teach some of the stuff he does.
“For him, it’s just learning the timing and rhythm aspect, the intermediate passing game, and finding that consistency for four quarters. When he’s in the rhythm and hitting all cylinders it’s pretty cool to watch.”
Wilson, returning from a three-game bench press against Detroit, showed the arm strength that propelled him to the Jets’ second overall in 2021. He was “on fire” in the first half, Saleh said.
He passed for 317 yards and two touchdowns but missed several open receivers and threw a costly interception in the third quarter. His off-target percentage (35.3) was a season high, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information.
Overall, Wilson is 5-3 as a starter. In a wild quarterback year, the Jets also started Joe Flacco (1-2) and White (1-2).
Chances are the Jets would have continued with White, but that all changed on Dec. 11 when he was drilled in the ribs by Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
The Jets were aware that White’s ribs were broken and still wanted to play him last week but made the surprise announcement last Friday that Wilson would start against the Lions. Saleh said White was not cleared for contact by the team or outside doctors.
Apparently nothing has changed about that.
“Everything for Mike is giving him the opportunity to get second opinions and making sure for him and his team that all the boxes are checked,” Saleh said. “From our point of view as coaches, we allow this process. If everything is right, we make a decision.”
Benching Wilson on Nov. 23, Saleh said his intention is to get Wilson back in the lineup before the end of the season — but not like this.
In other injury developments, star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams will be a season decider, with Saleh expressing optimism about his chances after missing last week.