You can’t make a player better with high praise

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Unfortunately, football doesn’t work this way.

The power of positive thinking is a wonderful thing, but when it comes to the QB position, it can’t help a player read defenses, go through progressions, pocket presence, and manipulating defenders with his eyes.

August 26 after Zach Wilson finished playing in his fourth preseason game this year and failing to lead the team on one TD drive, Robert Saleh said, “Zach was awesome.”

On September 11, after Zach Wilson went 14-21 for 140 yards, 1 TD and 1 pick in relief of Aaron Rodgers in a Jets win over Buffalo, Saleh said, “I thought he was awesome.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “awesome” as “extraordinary.”

Some would argue that calling Wilson’s performance this summer and in the first game “awesome” might be a little hyperbolic.

I’m not nitpicking, and Saleh’s a good man, but some would argue he’s overdoing the praise.

Wilson is still struggling with reading defenses and loves taking checkdowns. He’s still telegraphing passes like he did on a pick by Bills linebacker Matt Milano taking the linebacker to the ball with his eyes.

It is what it is. It doesn’t make Wilson a bad guy. It doesn’t mean he’s not working at it. This stuff is really hard on the NFL level. Just ask Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, the three rookie quarterbacks who started their first games on Sunday. It’s really hard.

And Wilson is still struggling with it in his third year.

You can’t will him to do it better by repeatedly calling him “awesome.” It’s not going to work. He needs to process better. It is what it is.

So if the Jets are going to win games with him moving forward, they need perfection from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in terms of dialing up first reads. Wilson is very good when the first read is open, and to Wilson’s credit, his hard work this off-season and summer seems to have improved his accuracy from last year.

And it’s essential they play from in front most of the time. It’s going to be hard for them to win playing from behind.

They need to reduce the game for Wilson with a great defense, a great running game and a limited passing offense with a lot of simple throws playing off the run game.

If they ask him to throw 35-40 times and win shootouts, they are asking for trouble.

Some Jets receivers might get frustrated with Wilson’s ball distribution issues like Elijah Moore was last year, because there are going to be limited reception opportunities with the QB’s limited field vision. Just ask Randall Cobb and Mecole Hardman who had no catches yesterday. Even Garrett Wilson who caught a TD in the fourth, making a spectacular catch on an easy one-read throw for the QB, had just 5 catches for 34 yards. 34 yards? This is a superb run after the catch receiver who threatens all parts of the field. 34 yards?

But the bottom line is. Zach Wilson has not been “awesome” and if he doesn’t start playing better, he could lose the locker room,

The film don’t lie. The players know.

Everything is okay in the locker room today because they won, but let’s not forget how frustrated Garrett Wilson got last year with the passing game.

The Jets need to go out and get another QB, but not the guy whom Joe Douglas seems to have a blindside for, who lives in Cherry Hill. Enough of that. Get somebody else.

And if Wilson’s progression scans and field vision don’t improve, they will have to consider going with Tim Boyle or whoever they add.

Because if Saleh lets confirmation bias rule the roost, not only might Wilson lose the locker room, but the coach risks doing the same thing.

September 12, 2023

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeld
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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