Last Sunday against Houston, Zach Wilson looked like a 22-year-old rookie who hadn’t played in a month.
Wilson – who threw for 145 yards and completed under 60% of his passes with no touchdowns and an interception – wasn’t happy with his performance, but the Jets secured the win against the awful Texans, 21-14, and that’s what matters at the end of the day.
But he has a joyful, child-like attitude as he looks ahead to the opportunity to bounce back against the 5-7 Eagles on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
”That’s the extremely fun part of football. Even if things aren’t going awesome all the time, the fun part is like ‘OK, now I get to learn from this. Apply what I’m learning this whole week in practice,” Wilson said. “…Work on just being more efficient in my play, and then how can I bring it to the field and do that on Sunday.”
The No. 2 overall pick is only completing 57.6% of his passes, but the Eagles allow quarterbacks to complete 71% of their passes, highest in the NFL.
However, the Eagles run zone on 72% of their defensive snaps and excel at preventing the deep ball. QBs are only completing 44% of passes over 20 yards. QBs have only attempted 25 passes of over 20 yards, tied for the fewest.
But they allow passes underneath. It explains why QBs have a 6.2 intended air yard per attempt against the Eagles defense.
Wilson must take what the defense gives him and basically play “boring football,” because that’s where the opportunities will be on Sunday.
The Eagles have allowed QBs to complete a blistering 74% of their passes on from zero to 19 yards (fifth-most in the league) and allowed 2, 140 yards on those throws (second-most in the league.)
However, Wilson struggles in that area. He is only completing 57% of his passes between the line of scrimmage and 19 yards with two touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The Eagles also thrive in pressuring QBs without sending heat. They pressure quarterbacks on 31% of their drop backs, fourth best in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats.
Wilson struggles immensely under pressure as he’s completed an egregious 28% of his throws under duress with a passer rating of 27. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur believes it’ll be a collaborative effort to overcome that.
“Just again, getting comfortable with our plan and getting the ball out of his hands. Again, it’s always going to come down to the quarterback, obviously making those plays, but really, it’s all 11,” LaFleur said. “It’s us protecting, it’s the back being firm in protection, it’s our line being firm in protection. They know the challenge that’s ahead. The Eagles, like you said, the sacks, it was incredible to me on Monday when I saw the number of sacks they don’t have, but then again you saw the pressure rate and then you just popped on the tape and it’s like every year with Philly, they’re good and they’re always led by that d-line.”
The Eagles defensive line is led by six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Cox has 23 pressures, 13th most for an interior lineman, according to Pro Football Focus. Javon Hargrave is the other defensive tackle, who has seven sacks, tied for third most from an interior lineman.
“For us, we got to dominate. We got to bring our lunch pail and be ready to play,” offensive tackle Morgan Moses said. “And I think we do that, you know, the sky’s the limit for us on Sundays.”
Even with all the pressure they generate, the Eagles don’t blitz much. They’ve used a four man rush on 71% of their drop backs (third-most in the NFL), according to NGS.
“Just be decisive, quick, feel that pocket closing,” Wilson said. “How can I get it out to my guys, let them make plays…I got to be able to go through my reads quickly. Understand when to get it out and just play decisive.”
Wilson has had issues against the four-man rush: his passer rating in those situations is a paltry 73.
When there’s a four man rush, most times teams are running zone, which requires Wilson to process the coverage. And sometimes he struggles reading the coverage post snap.
“You need to have a very efficient process as far as what’s likely that you’re getting pre snap, and maybe the idea of like, hey, it could go to this guy,” Wilson said. “But then all of the sudden they adjust. Now how can I react now and go somewhere else? And I think it’s that balance of just how quickly I can see what’s going on and be able to react and change as much as my process post snap.”
Other times it’s the offensive line allowing pressure that forces him to scramble then he tries to create a play down the field.
It explains why he’s held the ball for 3.06 seconds against a four man rush, fourth longest, but why he has the fourth highest intended air yards per attempt at 9.3.
Against the Texans, Wilson had a mixed performance against a four-man rush. He went 8-for-14 for 73 yards and interception but held the ball for 3.14 seconds. Some of that was him trying to make a play, like in the third quarter, when he rolled left and threw a dime to Ryan Griffin in the end zone. Wilson did everything right, but Griffin dropped the pass.
There are moments when Wilson flashes the right process along with the accuracy. Other times he doesn’t. The No. 2 overall pick will need to improve from last week for the Jets to defeat the Eagles for their second straight win.