By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Pro Football Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Now, that was more like it.
Zach Wilson shook off a rough training camp debut by showing off the type of eye-popping playmaking ability that made him so coveted by the New York Jets. And the No. 2 overall draft pick did it Saturday in front of plenty of excited fans.
“He’s doing things you’re not expecting him to do,” left tackle Mekhi Becton said. “There’s a lot of things that he’s out there doing that you don’t expect him to do, so I can’t just key in on one thing.”
Such as scrambling to avoid a pass rush and then launching a pretty pass downfield to a streaking Elijah Moore for an 80-yard touchdown. Fans, who were able to attend practice for the first time since 2019, went wild. Meanwhile, Becton went over to Wilson and tapped him a few times on top of his helmet.
“I loved it,” Becton said. “I was just thinking to myself if we can give him time and he can make throws like that, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
That, of course, is the plan. And the Jets expect Wilson to be a major reason for that success.
In the meantime, New York also knows there will be a few more days like Friday, when Wilson was shaky after missing the first two practices of camp while waiting to have his four-year, $35.15 million rookie deal worked out.
“He’s going to have so many ebbs and flows, it’s going to drive us all crazy,” coach Robert Saleh said. “But it’s all part of a process of getting better. He was champing at the bit to get back out here and he’ll champ at the bit to get out there tomorrow.”
Wilson’s timing appeared a bit off Friday, and understandably so after a six-week layoff. He was much more in tune Saturday. While the TD pass to Moore — a fellow rookie who has been outstanding since rookie camp in May — was the highlight, there were a handful of other plays that marked Wilson’s solid day.
He led Corey Davis down the sideline on a timing pattern that led to an easy reception. Later, Wilson scrambled to his right and zipped a pass to Denzel Mims, who made a nice grab. There was also a play when Wilson backpedaled to get out of trouble and found Moore for a completion.
“That’s one of the traits that is very unique about him,” Saleh said of Wilson’s ability to make off-balance throws. “He is an improvisor. You know, you have your runners, you have your scramblers and then you have your pocket passers. And he is more of a scrambler in the sense that he’s looking to throw, he’s trying to move and he can throw off his right, left, sidearm, under — whatever motion and platform you want to talk about.”
Wilson, who spoke to reporters Friday, insisted he had lots to work on and knows there will be a learning curve during his transition to the NFL.
And that goes for all the rookies. Not just Wilson.
“There’s going to be a lot of hair-pulling moments,” Saleh said. “There’s going to be times where they look like they’re Pro Bowlers. There can be times where they look like they’ve never been coached before. But that’s part of the evolution and the growth and development of these young guys. And we’re excited for the challenge to see how far we can get these guys to go.”