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Six things the New York Jets saw in Zach Wilson during the evaluation process

A behind-the-scenes look at several things that stood out to Jets brass about their future quarterback

By Brandon Judd  Jun 23, 2021, 10:00pm MDT
 

New York Jets first-round draft pick Zach Wilson works out during NFL football rookie camp. New York Jets first-round draft pick Zach Wilson (2) works out during NFL football rookie camp in Florham Park, N.J., on Friday, May 7, 2021. Wilson was a key figure in the Jets’ recently released four-part docuseries that examines the team’s 2021 offseason.  Bill Kostroun, Associated Press

The New York Jets are all-in on Zach Wilson.

That was made clear well before the Jets selected the former BYU and Corner Canyon star quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft in late April. The reasoning was made even more clear during the recently released four-part docuseries chronicling the New York team’s 2021 offseason, titled “Flight 2021: An Offseason With the New York Jets.”

“To finally have it done with Zach, it’s been no secret that he’s going to be our quarterback,” Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said in the opening of the fourth episode of the series. “... Zach’s a guy that we fell in love with early, and you could see why just from the tape, and being a natural thrower and being able to go through his process, being tough in the pocket and all the cool stuff he can do with his arm angle.”

The series gave a behind-the-scenes look at several things that stood out to Jets brass about their future quarterback, giving fans a glimpse of what the team sees in him and what the process was like in evaluating Wilson.

Wilson’s arm strength and decision-making

One of the more popular topics surrounding Wilson throughout the docuseries was his decision-making and his arm talent.

  • Andrew Dollak, Jets college scout assigned to the West Coast: “Something that consistently shows up is his ability to make full-field reads. He’s really quick through his progressions, he’s able to get across the field quickly, he can manipulate defenders with his eyes.”
  • Jon Carr, Jets director of college scouting: “Out of all the quarterbacks I (scouted) this year, this guy is one of the quickest decision-makers out of all these guys. He’s very accurate with the ball.”
  • Robert Saleh, Jets first-year coach: When you watch Zach play, you can see he’s got this incredible arm talent. You can see that he’s got tremendous decision-making ability, you can see the precision at what he does things. His off-platform throws and the things he can do with the football, it just popped off the tape.”

A QB rookie class that left the Jets confident in making a change

During the offseason, New York made its intentions clear it would go in a new direction at quarterback when the team traded its former starter, Sam Darnold, to the Carolina Panthers. That paved the way for the Jets to draft a quarterback at the No. 2 spot, and the team identified five quarterbacks it would examine in-depth as first-round talent, Wilson among them.

  • Joe Douglas, Jets general manager: “There was a lot of discussions that led to our decision to ultimately trade Sam. I think again it was us having open and honest dialogue … doing the work prior to the pro days on evaluating all these quarterbacks coming out in the draft and having a comfort level of just how many guys can come in here and help us. A lot of work went into that, a lot of evaluations. Ultimately at the end of the day we felt comfortable in making the move.”

Wilson’s preparation for pre-draft meetings was apparent

Wilson’s preparation during pre-draft meetings impressed the Jets brass, including his work with former BYU quarterback John Beck.

  • Saleh: “When we got a chance to meet with him, on tape he had already known our verbiage just being with John Beck at the quarterback school he goes to. He already knew our verbiage, he already knew how things applied. He had already showed he could make the throws that we wanted him to make, and his recall and all the things that he did during those Zoom meetings, he just kept checking off boxes and really made it an easy decision for us.”

Wilson’s leadership qualities stood out

LaFleur, the first-year offensive coordinator who came to New York from the San Francisco 49ers along with Saleh, described several things he looks for in quarterbacks during their pro day. Is the accuracy there? How strong is their arm? How do they handle the pressure? And how do they interact with their teammates?

  • LaFleur: “You could see it on tape, how his teammates respond to him. But you could also see it at his pro day, when guys were just gravitating to him and the leadership qualities that he had.”

How playing at BYU translates to the Jets’ scheme, playing environment

Two members of the Jets front office pointed to things about Wilson’s playing days at BYU that could help him in his adjustment to the pro level.

  • Rex Hogan, Jets assistant general manager: “I love the way they move the pocket for him, because he can make all those throws off-schedule, off-platform. All these are going to translate really well to the offense with Coach LaFleur and what they’re bringing from San Fran.”
  • Dollak: “Just because of where we play and the division we’re in, he is weather tested. This kid’s consistently performed well in cold weather throughout his career.”

Wilson’s ability to recall plays made a strong impression

Several members of Jets organization were impressed by the recall Wilson has in remembering plays, both good and bad.

  • LaFleur: “It seemed like he was prepared for everything. He had great recall of his offense, great recall of every single play in almost every single situation. It wasn’t just the good plays, it was the bad plays, the plays a lot of people would forget about.”
  • Hogan: “You see how quickly he operates in games. That’s the same way he was in the interview process, like his ability to dissect a play and the ability to know what he saw on tape, almost instant recognition. Just could just basically put up the scoreboard — what the score, down and distance — and the kid would know almost instantly at what point in the game it was and could recall all the plays and their concepts, how they were trying to attack the defense.”
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  • Hogan: “You see how quickly he operates in games. That’s the same way he was in the interview process, like his ability to dissect a play and the ability to know what he saw on tape, almost instant recognition. Just could just basically put up the scoreboard — what the score, down and distance — and the kid would know almost instantly at what point in the game it was and could recall all the plays and their concepts, how they were trying to attack the defense.”

IMO, that was Sam's biggest flaw.  Just seemed like he didn't understand what he was looking at. 

 

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