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Texans full throttle as Jets flip-flop QBs again

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws a touchdown pass to  wide receiver Nico Collins (12) against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Starter to third-string quarterback and back again in a span of three weeks, Zach Wilson is QB1 for the New York Jets.

Coach Robert Saleh declared Wilson “gives us the best chance to win” when the Jets try to pull out of a five-game losing streak Sunday against the Houston Texans in East Rutherford, N.J.

Wilson, benched for ineffective play three times in the past two seasons, was demoted last month after the Jets (4-8) lost 32-6 to the Buffalo Bills. However, replacement Tim Boyle threw one touchdown pass and three interceptions over two starts, leading to his abrupt released this week after New York’s 13-8 loss to the visiting Atlanta Falcons.

With Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles rehab ongoing, Wilson starts Sunday. Trevor Siemian will back him up, and Brett Rypien will be the emergency third quarterback after being plucked off the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad.

Wilson reportedly was reluctant to accept the starting job again due to “perceived injury risk,” but Saleh said that wasn’t the case after meeting with the former No. 2 overall draft pick.

“I am not concerned one bit about that report within the locker room,” Saleh said.

While New York has next to no chance of making the AFC playoffs, the surprising Texans (7-5) are in the thick of the fight.

Houston won for the fourth time in five weeks last Sunday, defeating the Denver Broncos 22-17. After facing the Jets, the Texans play three division games in the last four weeks — including two against the last-place Tennessee Titans.

Houston and Indianapolis are tied, one game behind Jacksonville in the AFC South entering the home stretch. The Texans are firmly in the wild-card mix.

“We’ve got a lot ahead of us,” Texans cornerback Desmond King II said. “We’ve got an opportunity to make a run into the playoffs, and we’ve got something special.”

Houston’s win over the Broncos came at a cost. Second-leading receiver Tank Dell (47 receptions, 709 yards, team-high seven TD catches) sustained a fractured fibula and is out for the remainder of the season. Without Dell, the Texans will need to rely more on Nico Collins (59-991-6) and Noah Brown (21-439-1) at the wideout position.

C.J. Stroud made it clear he will miss Dell, but the rookie quarterback is riding high and leading the NFL with 3,540 passing yards. He is supported by a Houston defense that ranks ninth against the run (97 yards per game) and allows just 20.8 points per game, similar to the Jets’ 20.9.

The Sunday game will reunite Texans first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and Saleh. Ryans coached on Saleh’s defensive staff with the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-20. When Saleh left for the Jets job, the 49ers promoted Ryans to defensive coordinator.

“I learned how to coach from being under Saleh,” Ryans said. “He taught me a lot when it comes to scheme, when it came to just handling players, game-planning. … He’s probably the reason why I’m standing here before you, because of just him taking me under his wing and teaching me the ropes.”

On Wednesday, the Texans signed safety Adrian Amos, whom the Jets surprisingly released on Saturday after 11 games (three starts) this season. In nine NFL seasons, Amos has 10 interceptions, six sacks and 659 tackles.

Jets leading rusher Breece Hall missed the Wednesday practice with an ankle injury. He was questionable for last week’s game due to a hamstring issue but wound up playing. New York also had Rodgers, wide receiver Jason Brownlee (ankle), offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer (calf) and defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers (ankle) sit out Wednesday.

Four Texans missed practice on Wednesday due to injury: tackles Laremy Tunsil (knee) and George Fant (hip), linebacker Neville Hewitt (hamstring) and safety Jimmie Ward (shoulder). Brown (knee) was limited, as were tight end Dalton Schultz (hamstring) and rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (shoulder).

–Field Level Media

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