This seems like a good time to be thankful for the quarterback the Bears drafted 11th overall in the 2021 NFL draft, for all the teams that drafted other players in the first 10 picks, and for the simple fact that the Bears did not draft that year 2nd overall pick, Zachary Kapono Wilson.
Here’s some questions with Gang Green Nation’s MacGregor Wells.
1. It’s been a rough week for Zach Wilson, but he’s had some flashes in his young career and seems to do pretty well when not pressured. Do you think his upsides are worth pushing through weeks like last Sunday? Do you think he can improve his response to pressure from say, deer-in-headlights to maybe antelope-in-headlights?
Well, I’m not sure what level of improvement would be implied by progressing from deer to antelope, but that made me laugh. I think with any highly drafted young quarterback the natural response of fans of the team is to be in that guy’s corner and cling to hope well past the point when realistically the guy’s probably a lost cause. Nobody enjoys coming to the conclusion your team once again has failed at drafting and/or developing a quarterback, and it’s back to square one.
I personally like to see what the historical record says about quarterbacks who began their careers in similar fashions. In Wilson’s case, it isn’t pretty. There are perhaps one or two notable exceptions, but quarterbacks coming back from where Wilson is now and becoming long term answers at the position are so exceedingly rare that I think it’s time to move on. Can he improve? Sure, it’s not impossible. But I think that we as fans often get stuck on asking the wrong questions. To me, the question isn’t, is it within the range of possible outcomes? The question is, what is the opportunity cost of continuing to try to develop Zach Wilson at this point, and is it more likely that a guy with Wilson’s track record in the NFL eventually pans out, or is it more likely the team can find a better solution at the position with other options through trades, free agency or the draft? The sunk cost of a high draft pick and $30 million in cap space is already gone; nothing can be done about that now. The only question is what can be done about the quarterback position going forward, and is continuing to invest in Zach Wilson giving the team the best chance of success? I think the answer is probably continuing to invest in Zach Wilson does not give the Jets the greatest odds of success going forward, even if there is still some non-trivial chance he eventually develops into something valuable at the quarterback position. Others certainly disagree with that conclusion, and of course there is no way to prove it one way or the other.
2. The Jets defense has quickly formed into one of the best units in football this season. What do you think came together to make it work so well?
The simple answer is talent, particularly in the secondary. The Jets completely revamped their secondary in the offseason, drafting Sauce Gardner and signing DJ Reed in free agency, giving the Jets arguably the best outside cornerback tandem in the NFL this year after having one of the worst last year. LaMarcus Joyner came back after missing the entire season last year at free safety, and the Jets brought in Jordan Whitehead at strong safety in free agency. The Jets secondary instantly went from bottom five to top five in the NFL.
In addition, Carl Lawson at edge rusher missed all of last season with an injury, but he is back and playing at a high level this season. Finally Quinnen Williams is having a career year at defensive tackle, making the jump from good to All Pro level this year. From draft picks to free agents to guys returning from devastating injuries to a guy finally realizing his full potential, it’s all about the talent. Last year the Jets’ defense was bereft of talent. This year it’s quite talented, particularly on the line and in the secondary.
3. With Zach Wilson sent to time out corner this weekend, what should we expect from the Jets backup quarterback?
Mike White, a journeyman backup with a below average arm, will step in under center for the Jets, with Joe Flacco serving as backup. Mike White’s primary positive attribute is that he gets the ball out quickly, in contrast to Zach Wilson, who held the ball way too long. White tends to focus on his first read and gets the ball out. That helps neutralize opponents’ pass rush, but it also constrains the Jets offense to short and intermediate passes for the most part. White rarely attacks deep, and when he does his lack of arm strength tends to make things difficult. White is most comfortable throwing to his backs, tight ends and slot receivers on quick hitting routes. Ask him to do more than that and trouble ensues for the Jets. Defenses will over time adjust to what White does and bring their safeties up, daring White to beat them deep. White is largely incapable of doing so. Bottom line, Mike White can execute a well conceived game plan as long as you’re not asking him to throw deep, get too deep into his progressions or improvise when the play breaks down. Ask him to do anything more than that and the Jets are asking for trouble.
4. The default search engine on my current computer is Yahoo (don’t ask) and in researching this question, which was going to be “how does winning feel” I searched the term “jets record” and yahoo’s first response was the Winnipeg Jets (they’re 11-5-1 by the way) so my new question is “how insulting is that, and what do the Jets have to do to get some damn respect from Yahoo?”
Heh. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season. They’ve had one winning record in their last 11 years. Coming into this season the Jets had won six games in their last two seasons. The results speak for themselves. The Jets have been so bad for so long they have become basically irrelevant as anything other than a punchline to anyone other than Jets fans. Respect is earned over time. The Jets actually have an exciting and talented young core of players now and an excellent defense. A decent quarterback would make this team a serious contender for a deep run in the playoffs. But talk is cheap. Until the Jets actually make that run and consistently win over more than a half season stretch, respect will be illusive. And frankly, it should be. You want respect in this league, you gotta show results that demand respect. The Jets look like they may be on their way to doing that, but it’s still gotta actually happen on the field before anyone other than diehard Jets fans should start believing in this team.
5. DraftKings has the over/under for this matchup at 39.5. I’ve been recently enthusiastic about the over on Bears games, but the Jets defense (and the Jets offense not gonna lie) gives me pause in this case. Do you see this game going over, or does the Bears ~30 point per game stretch finally come crashing down?
I am clueless how to think about this game. What the Bears do on offense is so foreign to what other NFL teams do I have no idea whether the Jets defense will be prepared to defend against the Bears offense. The Bears run the ball more than any NFL team since the 1970s. It’s nuts (but nuts in a good way recently). One problem for the Jets here is their defense is predicated on having great cornerbacks and a great pass rush. Those are two things that don’t matter so much against a team that runs the ball all day. Basically the Bears offense sidelines the greatest strengths of the Jets defense. I frankly hate these kinds of games. It’s a complete wildcard. Could the Jets shut down the Bears offense? Sure. The Jets have a really talented defense. But man, this could also all go very wrong as the Jets struggle to adjust to an offense the likes of which they, and the rest of the NFL, just haven’t seen. So that’s a wishy washy answer, I know, but I really don’t know what to expect, and it kinda scares the heck out of me as a Jets fan.
There you have it, Jets fans are quivering their turkey legs at the thought of facing the Bears offense this Sunday. If you’re more confident than MacGregor that you can predict this week’s outcome, our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook have you covered for this game and all the week’s NFL action.