Zach Wilson struggles: 3 reasons the New York Jets shouldn’t panic

Rookie No. 2 pick Zach Wilson will be the New York Jets’ starting quarterback when they open the season against the Carolina Panthers on September 12. There’s really no competition for the starting job.

Despite this, the BYU product has had his fair share of struggles during training camp. It’s been a hot-button topic for first-year head coach Robert Saleh and Co.

“There’s a reason why being a rookie is hard in this league,” Saleh told reporters on Monday, via NFL Media. “There was a Hall of Famer yesterday that was inducted that had a 71 quarterback rating his rookie year. It’s not easy to play quarterback in this league as a rookie, especially quarterback. But it is going to get worse before it gets better.”

As for Wilson, the young quarterback fully understands that he has struggled during the summer. That came to light after he completed just 11-of-24 passes in a scrimmage over the weekend.

“Not great,” Wilson said. “I have high expectations for myself and this offense. I have to lead the guys and I have to make better decisions. That’s why this isn’t Game 1; that’s why we’re doing this. I understand that. Of course I’m going to be frustrated with myself, but I’m going back to the film room and find out what I can learn.”

While these struggles have to be seen as alarming, there’s no reason for the Jets and their fans to panic. Here’s why.

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Rookie quarterbacks struggle

hall of famer peyton manning
Peyton Manning was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Manning was presented by father Archie Manning. (Scott Heckel/Canton Repository via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

As Saleh noted, recently-inducted Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was pretty darn terrible during his rookie season. The five-time NFL MVP threw 26 touchdowns against a league-high 28 interceptions in his first foray into professional action back in 1998.

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This story has been repeated over and over again. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees tossed 29 touchdowns against 31 interceptions in his first 27 career starts. And the list goes on. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with early-career struggles. The more New York’s brass points this out to Zach Wilson, the better.

Zach Wilson can’t be compared to other rookie quarterbacks

new york jets quarterback zach wilson
Jul 31, 2021; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback coach Rob Calabrese pats quarterback Zach Wilson (2) on the helmet in front of quarterback James Morgan (4) during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, Wilson will be compared to his 2021 NFL Draft classmates throughout his career. Primarily, Jacksonville Jaguars No 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and the third overall selection, San Francisco 49ers signal caller Trey Lance.

That’s all fine and dandy. It’s part of the game. With that said, rookie quarterbacks find themselves in different situations.

In particular, Lance is playing with one of the most-skilled offenses in the NFL. It’s no surprise that he’s showing out in training camp for the 49ers. Simply put, they have much better skill-position players around the young quarterback. Even if Lance were to beat out Jimmy Garoppolo and perform well as a rookie, that wouldn’t be a clear indication that his career will end up being better than what we see from Wilson in New York.

Zach Wilson and the New York Jets are at the initial stages of a rebuild

This somewhat covers the previous point. Saleh took over a two-win Jets team from the disaster that was Adam Gase. General manager Joe Douglas is relatively new on the job, and continues to build the team to his liking.

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In reality, the 2021 season is the initial stage of the Jets’ rebuild. Sure they’ve added some talent to the mix via both free agency and the NFL Draft. But this roster is nowhere near ready to contend. The goal will be to see progression from Zach Wilson as his rookie season continues. A summer of struggles does absolutely nothing to change this.