FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)Zach Wilson is moving up on the New York Jets’ quarterback depth chart this week.
Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday the benched former starter is being promoted from No. 3 to the backup behind Mike White, who is dealing with a rib injury but is expected to make his fourth straight start on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
”Zach’s been doing a great job,” Saleh said. ”He has been deliberate in his approach over the last three weeks. He’s been holding himself accountable with regards to how he wants to attack practice, how he’s been performing in practice going against our defense – which I think is a pretty good defense to go against – and working on all the different things we’ve been asking him to accomplish.”
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, said he was excited by the promotion and acknowledged the biggest challenge for him the past several weeks was ”finding the fun in football” again.
”I love this game and it definitely wasn’t lost,” he said. ”But I think you guys felt the frustrations over some of those rough games.”
Wilson said he’s ready to take the field again, and hopes to this season – ”but that’s not up to me.”
Entering this year, the focus for the Jets was Wilson’s continued progress and development as their quarterback of the present – and future. And he still thinks he can be.
”Yeah, I definitely believe in myself,” Wilson said. ”Of course, I have all the confidence in the world, and I think that’s how it should be. But you’ve got to be able to prove that. That goes back to just attacking every single day.”
Wilson missed the first three games while recovering from a knee injury. He started the next seven and the Jets went 5-2 in those games, but his play was mostly shaky. Wilson had four touchdown passes and five interceptions and had a 55.6 completion percentage as New York’s offense struggled to produce points.
After Wilson went just 9 of 22 for 77 yards in a 10-3 loss at New England in Week 11, the Jets elevated White to starter.
Meanwhile, Wilson was inactive the last three games, not even dressed in uniform on the sideline.
”I mean, it’s frustrating and you would like to be out there,” Wilson said. ”But you’ve got to control what you can control. Right now, it’s how can I just do everything I can to put myself in the best position to help this organization and this team?”
Under White, the Jets (7-6) are 1-2 but have been better offensively as they try to make a playoff push and end an 11-year playoff drought – the longest active skid in the NFL.
White was limited at practice Wednesday after twice being forced out of New York’s 20-12 loss at Buffalo last Sunday after taking big hits to his midsection. He returned both times but was sent to the hospital after the game to be examined further.
White told The Associated Press at a charity event Tuesday night his ”ribs are good” and was waiting to get clearance from doctors.
”We’re still working as if he’s playing this week,” Saleh said, adding that Wilson’s promotion was just ”a coincidence” in timing.
Joe Flacco, who started the first three games this season, will be the No. 3 quarterback.
The Jets wanted Wilson to sit as part of a mental and physical ”reset” to focus on fundamentals such as extending the pocket, moving the football and getting his footwork corrected.
”He’s been good,” Saleh said. ”Obviously, it’s not over. Continue working and understanding you’re the next man up.”
Saleh reiterated his stance that the plan is to have Wilson back on the field and playing again at some point.
”I’m still in that same mindset, guys, with regards to Zach,” the coach said. ”He’s a very talented young man – very talented young man. We’re in the business of developing guys and I’ve said it before: This is Mike White’s opportunity and he’s attacking the heck out of the opportunity and is doing a great job with it.
”But at the same time, we’ve still got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to develop Zach to the spot we know he’s capable of getting to.”
NOTES: DL Quinnen Williams (calf), DL John Franklin-Myers (flu), CB Brandin Echols (quadriceps), WR Corey Davis (concussion protocol) and S Will Parks (not injury related) didn’t practice Wednesday. Saleh said Williams, who has a career-high 11 sacks, remains ”50-50” to play. … OTs George Fant (knee) and Duane Brown (shoulder) were limited, as was DE Micheal Clemons (knee). … The Jets signed OL Eric Smith to the practice squad. It’s the third stint with New York for Smith, who was most recently with Tennessee.
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