November 29, 2022


Let's Get It!

Everything is different with Zach Wilson

4 min read

Someone needs to get one of the old Barack Obama “Hope” posters and photoshop Robert Saleh’s face on it.

Saleh’s arrival as the Jets’ new head coach has rejuvenated an organization beaten down by years of losing. The low point was a dismal 2-14 record in 2020, a season that was played under COVID-19 restrictions.

“Last year was tough mentally,” guard Greg Van Roten said. “It was so stressful for a lot of guys, there were a lot of new players and so much uncertainty. We felt every day that we would get shut down, and that made it hard to go to work every day. You’re trying to do your job, coupled with losing a lot, losing your job, there’s turnover and a lot of new faces.

“They hire Saleh, and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building. All we ask for is a fresh start in this league, and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on Page 1, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

The Jets’ book features not only Saleh as a new main character, but also rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Jets decided to move on from Sam Darnold after three years and drafted Wilson out of BYU with the No. 2-overall pick. There is no phony quarterback competition or questions about whether Wilson will start Week 1. He is their guy and will be the starter, barring injury, when the Jets face the Panthers and Darnold on Sept. 12 to open the season.

All eyes are on Zach Wilson
All eyes are on Zach Wilson
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Between now and then, the Jets will learn more about Wilson and their entire squad through a training camp that begins with their first practice Wednesday, and through three preseason games and two weeks of joint practices with the Packers and Eagles.

Saleh must rebuild the confidence of the returning players after five straight losing seasons and 10 without a playoff appearance. Then, he must weave in the new faces as the 2021 Jets begin to mesh. The Jets could have as many as 12 new starters and many more major contributors this season. They are going to need to coalesce quickly for the team to have early success.

“Our identity is not going to reveal itself until we see adversity,” Saleh said. “When things are good, everyone loves being part of winning, everyone loves being part of the good things. The whole disease of me, of course things are going to be good but, what’s going to happen when you hit adversity, when things aren’t going your way? How are you going to look, not only as an individual but as a team? Those moments have to reveal themselves.

“Like I’ve said a million times now, we’re going to have a lot of ebbs and flows. There’s going to be a lot of great moments, there’s going to be a lot of hair-pulling moments. At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to shape this football team.”

General manager Joe Douglas filled some of the holes on the roster through free agency with pass rusher Carl Lawson, wide receiver Corey Davis, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and others. Then, he had what looks like a strong draft on paper — with Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, wide receiver Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter and cornerback Michael Carter II all entering the season as potential starters or major contributors.

There are still major questions at cornerback, running back, linebacker and concerns about how quickly the offensive line can jell.

But the biggest focus in camp and all season will be on Wilson, who was fighting for the starting job at BYU a year ago. So far, the reviews have been positive. But things are about to get more real.

“Zach loves ball, that’s one thing that I’ve learned,” Saleh said. “He’s unflappable in the sense that he doesn’t care whether something went good or bad. He wants to know why it went good or bad, he wants to learn from it. He is wired exactly the way you want all players to be wired, so now it’s just a matter of him getting as many reps as possible, to go into as many situations as possible, to see how much he can get better.”

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