Zach Wilson turned 22 on Tuesday, making the Jets’ rookie quarterback exactly half the age of the player many consider to be the greatest to ever play the position.
Yes, Wilson shares his birthday with the now 44-year-old Tom Brady, who won his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl title last year in his first season after leaving New England to join the Buccaneers.
“I mean, it’s pretty dang cool,” Wilson said after practice Tuesday in Florham Park. “I’d say one of the craziest parts is I think I was 1 in his first year in the NFL. Pretty crazy to think about. … I’ll have to say something to him [about it].”
Of course, the second-overall pick in the 2021 draft has participated in just four practices after reporting a couple of days late to camp last week due to contractual issues.
While Week 17 of the 2021 season is months away, Wilson and the Jets are slated to face Brady and the Bucs on Jan. 2 at MetLife Stadium.
“Brady in my opinion is the greatest of all time. I don’t think you can argue that,” Wilson said. “It’s just like, wherever he’s at, they’re winning. I’ve always been [an Aaron] Rodgers guy because of the flashiness, but the thing that’s important in the game is winning, right? This is a team sport and it’s all about winning. It’s not how cool a throw looks or anything like that.
“[Brady has] definitely been a favorite to watch growing up and I think that’s just because of the way he does it, and the way that he’s found a system, a process that works for him, as far as just offseason conditioning.”
All eyes were on Wilson as the Jets practiced 11-on-11 in full pads Tuesday for the first time in camp. The BYU product’s immediate progress, after all, will go a long way into determining how quickly the Jets can improve on last year’s 2-14 disaster and get back on the path to qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“It’s applying [the information] every day, just trying to slow the game down as much as I can,” Wilson said. “Going out there and just saying to myself, what am I looking for, what’s my read, what’s my drop here?
“Just from an offensive standpoint, it’s always going to be a little farther behind than the defense, and that’s just because of install and how much information there is. But you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as how things are going. I feel like we’re doing a good job and we’re getting there, but it’s a process and it’s going to take time.”
First-year head coach Robert Saleh mostly liked what he saw from Wilson and the team in practice, at least until the session had to be cut short because of a neck injury suffered by second-year offensive lineman Cameron Clark. He had to be carted off the field and taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Wilson had some up-and-down moments earlier in the day. The rookie took a couple of non-contact sacks, but he also spread the ball around effectively to his various targets, including rookie Elijah Moore.
Saleh noted that Wilson is still “getting his hands full” with feeling the pass rush, but believes the first-year signal caller has been “doing a good job” in his first full week of NFL practice.
“I do think our D-line and O-line are battling so much, those pockets are getting really tight on him. Those are things he’s got to figure out,” Saleh said. “He had about four of them where the pocket closed on him, and he just wasn’t sure where the receiver was. I think he underthrew one of them.
“Those are things he has to feel and trust and know, and that comes with understanding and knowing exactly where his players are going to be, and being able to launch it to a spot on the field. All in a phone booth. You’ll hear quarterbacks and the quarterbacks coach talk about being able to throw out of a phone booth. I think he’s doing a good job right now. For where he is, and where he’s gonna go, I think he’s not even close to where he’s gonna go.”