Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson shows promise despite Panthers wanting to 'make his first game hell'

by 24USATVSept. 13, 2021, 4 a.m. 21
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The Jets' 19-14 loss against the Panthers will stick with Zach Wilson in more ways than one.

Aside from the sting of falling short in his debut, the rookie quarterback was barraged by pass rushers all afternoon, resulting in six sacks and frequent meetings with the turf.

Edge rusher Brian Burns was the first to usher in the welcome wagon with an unimpeded path to Wilson for a sack on his second pass attempt for 9-yard loss. From there, it became abundantly clear what Carolina's aim would be for the rest of the contest.

"Just make his first game hell," said Burns of the defense's pre-game directive, according to The Athletic.

For the better part of the season opener, the Panthers delivered on that front. The Jets accumulated zero points and just 82 yards through their first nine drives. Six of those ended in punts, the other two concluding after a Shaq Thompson pick and the halftime whistle.

But, just as all hope seemed lost for New York as its 10th series began, Wilson started to find his zone. The rookie went 4 of 4 to lead a 70-yard TD drive, with his most impressive plays being a 20-yard completion to Corey Davis and a 22-yard TD toss to Davis after evading pressure. Wilson rushed the 2-point conversion in to cut the deficit to 16-8.

With 4:27 remaining and his team now down 19-8, Wilson went to work. After hitting Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims downfield for gains of 25 and 40 yards, respectively, Wilson recovered from being walloped by Derrick Brown for a loss of 10 to hit Davis for another score two plays later to end an impressive 10-play, 98-yard scoring drive. Wilson's effort, while it didn't lead to victory, was a shining example of his toughness.

"Really, I felt like I was seeing the field well, even early on when we struggled a little bit," Wilson said of his debut, per SNY. "I felt like I was seeing what I was supposed to be seeing and I just felt like we were just a little bit short on execution, just some of the details overall. I got to clean that up and, us a team, we got to get back in, watch the film and do better next week."

The shaky first half and promising second half should give Wilson and the Jets plenty to dissect ahead of Week 2. Improving pass protection will obviously be a key focus going forward -- left tackle Mekhi Becton was lost to a possible MCL sprain -- but Wilson's response to the adversity is an indication that the club may have finally found their future under center.

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