Credit: Bill Moore photo

Sunday will be the official start of the 2021 NFL season for the New York Jets and a new beginning for the franchise with first-year, first-time head Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. It’s another reboot for the Jets in their effort to ascend to the top of the AFC East division.

Ironically, their opening game is against the Carolina Panthers on the road. The Panthers also have a new starting QB, Sam Darnold, who the Jets drafted No. 3 overall in 2018 to lead them back to prominence. It didn’t work out and Darnold was traded to the Panthers this past April for three draft picks––a sixth rounder in April’s draft, and second and fourth round picks in next year’s draft.

The Jets then selected Wilson No. 2. He was one of five quarterbacks taken in the first round. While the team isn’t expected to be a threat to the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots or Miami Dolphins to win the AFC East, and are a longshot to be a playoff contender, major steps forward are reasonable after having the second worst record in the league last season at 2-14.

The Jets haven’t been to the playoffs since back-to-back losses in the AFC Championship Game in the 2009 and 2010 seasons led by then head coach Rex Ryan with a young Mark Sanchez at QB. Sanchez was a rookie during the Jets’ 2009 run. They haven’t played in a Super Bowl since 1969. All hopes, for now, lie on the presumptive talents of Wilson to get them there.

The 22-year-old from BYU is not the franchise savior, but someone who has the physical tools to be a Super Bowl caliber QB. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Wilson has a gifted arm and displayed the pinpoint accuracy while passing for 7,652 yards in three years at BYU that separates the top quarterbacks from the rest of the pack.

For Wilson, and any QB, preparation is key. He’ll have to master the team’s playbook, smartly read defenses, and command the line of scrimmage. Jets general manager Joe Douglas is confident Wilson will grow into an elite NFL quarterback. He was highly impressed with the Draper, Utah native during the draft evaluation process.

“Zach really stood out,” said Douglas after selecting him. “His recall, his focus, his intensity, his passion, it all stood out.” In training camp and two preseason games Wilson hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s been everything we’d hoped for, scouting him at BYU,” said Douglas last week, emphasizing Wilson’s passion for the game and intelligence.

“It’s been good seeing him download this information, not making the same mistake twice. Obviously, his physical skills jump out, the way he throws the ball. It’s just an effortless motion.” Only time will tell if the Jets made the right decision. But right now, optimism is the mood of the team.