When you look at Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, there is no fear in the eyes of the rookie. You see determination, eagerness, some anger. You see an eagerness to play, to rectify his mistakes, to take accountability for some errors that aren’t all his fault, such as pass to Braxton Berrios that went through the receivers’ hands and into those of Denver Broncos safety Caden Sterns, one of Wilson’s two interceptions this past Sunday in a 26-0 loss.
Wilson and Robert Saleh, a first-time NFL head coach, have started their positions with the Jets 0-3. Not what they had hoped for or expected. Or at least not expecting the team to be non-competitive. “It’s frustrating,” Wilson said. “We’re all learning. We’re trying to get better every single week. It may be hard for people to see that, but we’re learning a lot from those games.”
And there’s a lot to learn from, starting with a 19-14 road loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1. A 25-6 home loss to the New England Patriots in Week 2, and last Sunday’s defeat in which the offense was shutout. Wilson has expressed appreciation for the efforts of teammates like defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who totaled 1.5 sacks against the Broncos, sharing one with defensive end Bryce Huff. But the Jets haven’t been shown they can play consistently well.
This upcoming Sunday’s home game at MetLife Stadium is against the formidable 2-1 Tennessee Titans. They have won two straight, beating the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts. But unlike the Jets’ first three opponents, the Titans come in with less of a back story than the Jets’ previous three opponents.
Carolina has former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. New England is a longtime rival who’s head coach, Bill Belichick, famously resigned as the Jets’ new head coach in January of 2020 without ever coaching a game. They are also starting a rookie in Mac Jones. Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater, who is having an excellent beginning to this season, leading Denver to a 3-0 record, is another former Jets quarterback.
The Jets are trying to find their way with young leadership. In addition to Wilson and Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is in his first year as an NFL coordinator and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is only in his second year as a coordinator in the league overseeing the Atlanta Falcons defense last season.
“We play hard, but playing hard is not good enough sometimes,” said Saleh.
“Sometimes you have to stumble,” noted Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins. “Sometimes you have to trip in order to start walking and running.”