Over and over, the Jets have expressed confidence in Zach Wilson, both inwardly and outwardly.
Through the press, on social media, during the team’s dramatic rally Monday night against the Bills.
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Even in the locker room.
As Wilson prepared to address reporters after practice on Thursday, Dalvin Cook yelled out: “We love you, Zach.”
Clearly, they are trying to do everything possible to elevate the one-time backup in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending Achilles injury.
“Cause of the effect that can have on people — belief — people believing in you, people that you get to work with every day believing in you,” wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. “Sometimes it can seem like the world is against you, but it’s never really the case. We always got our guy’s back. It can be tough playing quarterback in this part of the world. Because of that, and all the other things, we always want to make sure we got our brother’s back.
“If he doesn’t know that, then I’m doing my job wrong. I want to make sure I give him all the empowerment in the world, and I know all the other guys feel the same way.”
This was supposed to be a reset year for the 24-year-old Wilson, a season to learn under Rodgers, the four-time MVP of the league and a mentor of his.
The second-overall pick in the 2021 draft, Wilson had struggled in his two years as the Jets’ starter, leading to multiple benchings last season and the acquisition of Rodgers.
Now, he is back under the spotlight, the quarterback for a win-now team that had Super Bowl expectations prior to Rodgers’ injury.
“It’s trusting the guys around me,” Wilson said. “They’ve shown this past week how explosive, how dynamic, guys are. Relying on this good defense we have. I think it’s going out there, taking it one play at a time, trusting in my footwork, trusting in what the coaches have been talking about, and we’ll go from there.”
Wilson’s coaches and teammates are doing their best to ease the burden on him, repeatedly saying that he is a different player than the one last year.
Pointing out that the Jets were 5-1 with him as the starter last year before killer season-ending injuries to top offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and standout running back Breece Hall.
Emphasizing that he just needs to play within himself for them to win games, that nothing has changed inside the locker room in terms of their expectations.
Wilson has enjoyed the added benefit of learning from Rodgers through the spring and summer.
Even before the Jets traded for the future Hall of Famer, the two spent time together working out in the offseason.
Wilson has made more of an effort to get to know more of his teammates, something Rodgers made a habit of doing, to focus on the team rather than himself.
Obviously, holdovers from the last two years won’t forget about Wilson’s much-documented shortcomings.
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He has a good idea, however, of how he can win them over.
“I think how I can go out there and play football will earn that trust back from those guys,” he said. “I would say I have a very good relationship with everybody in this locker room. We joke around, we eat lunch together, we go out for dinners, and so I would always feel the guys in this locker room have my back just like I’ve got their back.”
Wilson’s performance Monday night was far from perfect.
He threw an interception.
He was sacked twice.
He completed 14 of 21 passes for 140 yards.
Though the defense did the hefty lifting, producing four turnovers, Wilson was poised and under control in big moments, which wasn’t often the case last year or the year before.
“You have to be able to say, ‘OK, I made a mistake, now what?’ I have to move on, and the team’s relying on me to do my part,” Wilson said. “For me, I know what I’m capable of, and I feel like I have the belief of the guys in this locker room, so how can we go out there every single day and piece it together one by one?
“Aaron’s a hell of a player, man, but I need to just try and do my job and keep this team going.”