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Robert Saleh defends Zach Wilson, New York Jets QB won’t be benched in 2022

Matt Johnson
Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is struggling early in the 2022 NFL season, but the team’s four-game winning streak provided fans with something to celebrate. Following Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, the calls to bench Wilson are growing louder.

After struggling in his rookie season, Wilson needed to prove himself in his second year. However, he dealt with erratic accuracy in practice this summer and it generated more concerns about his lack of consistency. A torn meniscus then sidelined him for over a month, allowing Joe Flacco to start until Wilson returned in Week 4.

Related: New York Jets schedule

While the team won four games in a row, Wilson had very little to do with it. New York became a run-heavy team that won games by protecting the football and controlling the other side with one of the best defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, Wilson effectively served as a game manager.

  • Zach Wilson stats (Week 4-7): 58-of-101 (57.4%), 173.3 pass ypg, 1-2 TD-INT, 73.6 QB rating, 4-0 record

While the recipe led to success for most of October, everything changed after the season-ending injury for Breece Hall. Without their star offensive rookie, New York shifted to a more pass-oriented offense in Week 8 against the New England Patriots. With the pressure on Wilson to carry the offense, he came up short.

The second-year passer completed just 20-of-41 attempts (48.8% completion rate), finishing with three interceptions and a 64.6 passer rating. After seeing the offense struggle under Wilson, fans, NFL analysts and former players called on the Jets to make a quarterback change.

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson safe as starter

Syndication: The Record
Kevin R. Wexler-NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Addressing reporters on Monday, Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh quickly shot down the possibility of a quarterback change. Not only is New York’s coach committed to Wilson starting in Week 9, he made it clear that the only way Wilson doesn’t play is if he suffers an injury.

“He’s our quarterback because we think he’s gonna get better and he’s gonna continue to prove why he’s the #2 pick.”

New York Jets HC Robert Saleh on QB Zach Wilson (H/T SNYJets)

Fans are frustrated with the lack of improvement in the passing attack. Even after spending a top pick on wide receiver Garrett Wilson and allocating significant cap room to Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah and Corey Davis, New York’s passing offense is one of the least effective in the NFL.

  • New York Jets passing offense (2022): 6.6 yards per attempt (27th), 76.1 QB rating (31st), 57.9% completion rate (32nd)

The Jets’ offense averaged 300.3 passing yards per game with a 77.9 passer rating with Flacco under center in the first three games. Things have deteriorated since Wilson took over, with a majority of Wilson’s 355 yards on Sunday coming at the end of the game.

While fans see a lack of improvement from Wilson, Saleh believes the second-year quarterback is making significant strides compared to his rookie season and thinks a lot more growth will come.

“I think Zach’s gonna continue to get better. I think he’s a lot better than he was a year ago

Robert Saleh on Zach Wilson’s improvement

Thus far, though, the numbers don’t look all that different. Wilson’s penchant for poor decision-making and bouts of inaccuracy remain issues in 2022. Based on the numbers, there are no real signs of him taking steps forward despite having better weapons around him now.

  • Zach Wilson stats (2021): 55.6% completion rate, 2.3 TD%, 2.9 INT%, 6.1 ypa, 69.7 QB rating, 33.4 ESPN QBR
  • Zach Wilson stats (2022): 54.9% completion rate, 2.1 TD%, 3.5 INT%, 7.4 ypa, 71 QB rating, 41.7 ESPN QBR

After posting the highest rate of bad throws (23.8%) in the NFL last season and the lowest on-target rate (69.9%), it remains a problem in 2022. Entering Week 9, Wilson ranks last in bad throw rate (22.7%) and his On-Target rate (71.9%) is 25th among starting quarterbacks.

At least for now, Saleh and the Jets’ front office seems committed to allowing Wilson to prove himself over the entire 2022 season. If he is still underperforming by December, it’s likely going to force difficult decisions next offseason.