After a long wait, training camp officially kicked off this week. Stemming from OTAs, there are multiple aspects that have the potential to dominate the headlines. One of these aspects was the prospective left tackle “position battle” between Mekhi Becton and George Fant. Yet, this storyline was resolved on the first day of camp. Head Coach Robert Saleh confirmed on Wednesday that Fant will be the left tackle and Becton will slide next to Alijah Vera-Tucker on the right side.
A second storyline stemming from OTAs is the potential rebound of Denzel Mims and how he factors into the Jets’ plans moving forward. Mims impressed in his first practice on Wednesday, making multiple contested and acrobatic catches. How Mims progresses throughout the upcoming weeks will play a role in his future, whether that is as a depth option or as a trade chip to be sent out for a draft pick.
But out of all the potential storylines, the one that matters most is Zach Wilson’s overall development and progression from last year to this year. As mentioned in previous articles, Wilson dedicated himself to improving both physically and mentally in the offseason. OC Mike LaFleur said at the time, “Just being all the focus since January on his diet and his body to just put himself in the best situation from an athletic standpoint. He really bought into it.” During OTAs, LaFleur said, “He’s so comfortable before I give him a play, he’s dapping up everybody else and talking to them as I’m saying the play. That tells you right there he kind of knows what’s being said and can relay it to the guys. It’s been pretty cool from all those angles.”
With a good amount of time between OTAs and the beginning of training camp, it was essential for Wilson to continue to build on his improvements already made in the offseason. Wilson mentioned that he wanted to take on a bigger leadership role this season, and he made good strides in that regard with a trip to Idaho with his teammates. The second year QB said that the trip was a “good bonding moment for all of us to sit by the fire at night and talk. It was a really cool trip. We definitely had a blast together.”
Wilson also elaborated how the trip helped to build trust between those teammates and how that ties into his leadership. ” I don’t even know if I think of it as I really have to take that leadership role. It’s like I need to have that personal connection with guys, and I think that takes place. They start to look up to you and ask you questions and try to lean on each other. It’s like we are there for each other, that’s really what you have to show. That’s really what the Idaho trip was for. It was for us to spend time together, show them I care about them, and I want to know and get to know them and the little details about their life,” said Wilson.
From an on the field standpoint, Wilson said he is focused on “one play at a time” and constantly looks to see how he can improve himself. “Even when you make a mistake, it’s I can correct myself now for the most part after. That’s a good thing because you feel like you can keep improving and getting better, but I feel like just understanding what I’m asked to do in this offense. My ability to make quick decisions and get through my reads is going to keep improving.”
Wilson’s preparation and mindset has already paid dividends with his teammates, as both Corey Davis and C.J. Uzomah spoke highly of Wilson. Davis stated that Wilson is a “great leader” and has “been out there encouraging everybody” during practice. Uzomah called Wilson his “little brother” and said that “he will” make a second year leap at quarterback. ” I think the game is slowing down for him already. You can see it in his reads, what he’s doing when he’s looking off defenders, how he’s delivering the ball, the arm position. I mean, he’s got a helluva arm, so he’s gonna be able to make the tough throws. It’s just a matter of slowing the game down and I think he’s doing a tremendous job already,” said Uzomah.
For all intents and purposes, it seems that Wilson has nailed the preparation aspect that is necessary for the quarterback position. The second-year QB has seemingly dedicated himself to the physical and mental aspects of the position while making a concerted effort to build connections with his teammates. But even with all of these positive developments, Wilson needs to keep showing improvement during training camp and into the season. The QB realizes as much, saying, “Of course, could you say if I don’t do my job the offense isn’t going to run? Of course. I touch the ball every play. I have to do my 1/11th of my job and everything else takes care of itself.”
The answer to the Zach Wilson question most likely cannot be answered until the end of this season, as the results when the plays are live will show his true improvement. But if Wilson can prove the confidence his teammates and coaches have in him to be correct, then the Jets will be well on their way to becoming an above average offense and football team. He may not hold the keys for the team’s overall success, but Wilson is vital to how far the Jets can go.