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Zach Wilson, Jets in danger of entering Daniel Jones Zone

The most important decision for any NFL team goes beyond simply drafting a potential franchise quarterback, but evaluating within that player’s first few seasons whether he’s deserving of a massive long-term contract.

The Jets already have been through the five-year evaluation window for a highly drafted signal-caller once in recent years, deciding to move on from 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold after three so-so seasons before trading him last year to Carolina.

The Giants, of course, also declined to pick up the fifth-year option worth $22.4 million in 2023 for Daniel Jones, the sixth overall selection in 2019. Jones has missed games due to injuries in each of his first three NFL seasons, including the final six last year because of a neck issue, essentially making the upcoming season a career-defining last chance to prove himself worthy of being the long-term heir to a position manned by his predecessor, Eli Manning, for nearly 16 years.

Which brings us to Zach Wilson in the other home locker room at MetLife Stadium. Jets coach Robert Saleh was correct Sunday in lamenting the “bad timing” and opportunity lost for the second-year QB, who’ll miss the rest of training camp and however much longer after suffering a bone bruise and a torn meniscus in Friday’s preseason opener.

New York Jets' Zach Wilson is taken off the field after an injury during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Zach Wilson threw five passes in the Jets’ first preseason game before a knee injury ended his night early.

How much regular-season game action last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick will miss will become clearer after Wilson undergoes arthroscopic Tuesday in California. He could, in theory, even be ready to return for Week 1; if the meniscus tear is worse than anticipated, he could miss the entire season.

The Jets are trying to portray optimism that Wilson still will have plenty of time to build on an up-and-down rookie year, though any time lost to injury deletes precious evaluation time for Saleh and GM Joe Douglas, especially as quarterback salaries continue to spiral out of control across the league.

Immediate stars at the position such as the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow obviously hit the ground running in their pro careers, each reaching the Super Bowl in their second seasons as starters.

Clearly, few are expecting such a dramatic leap this year for Wilson and the Jets, who finished the 2021 season with a 4-13 record in Saleh’s first year on their sideline. But the front office did upgrade the skill level surrounding Wilson in Year 2, adding two tight ends via free agency (C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin) while spending first-round and second-round picks in the draft on speedy wide receiver Garrett Wilson (10th overall) and running back Breece Hall (36th).

New York Jets' Zach Wilson looks to pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Philadelphia.
The Jets upgraded this offseason at wide receiver, tight end and running back in hopes of giving Wilson a more competitive offense.

Like the difficult start of Jones’ career behind a patchwork offensive line, however, the likelihood of starting tackle Mekhi Becton missing essentially a second entire season (knee) and the mid-camp shuffle to incorporate 36-year-old left tackle Duane Brown still could hinder Wilson’s progress.

In what could be a cautionary tale for the Jets, it was only a year ago that the Giants learned the hard way about the importance of having a viable backup quarterback — losing all six games Jones missed to end the season, mostly with overmatched veteran Mike Glennon behind center. Bringing in capable free agent Tyrod Taylor to serve as Jones’ backup was one of the stronger offseason moves by new GM Joe Schoen and rookie coach Brian Daboll.

Post football columnist Mark Cannizzaro made the argument that 37-year-old former Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco might give the Jets a better chance to win games early in the season than Wilson, beginning with the season opener Sept. 11 at home against the Ravens.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8 throws a pass over New England Patriots defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale (95) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass.
The Giants declined to pick up the fifth-year option for Daniel Jones, who is now playing for his third different coach in four seasons while auditioning for a new contract.

But the Jets’ priority this season has to feature the larger view of evaluating Wilson and giving him every opportunity to improve and succeed, one that Darnold was unable to seize before landing with the Panthers, who also have imported former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield (after he failed to earn a second contract from the Browns).

Today’s back page

The back page of the New York Post on August 16, 2022.
New York Post

Youth won’t be served — yet

Buck Showalter carried a young prospect named Derek Jeter on the Yankees’ roster late in the 1995 season, and kept him around during the playoffs to absorb that postseason atmosphere ahead of what would be a Rookie of the Year campaign in 1996 to kick-start a Hall of Fame career.

More than a quarter of a century later, fans of both first-place New York teams — including Showalter’s Mets — are clamoring for heralded youngsters to get a taste of the respective pennant races, possibly to fill short-term needs.

The Mets declined to promote either of two hot-hitting infielders — Brett Baty or Mark Vientos — from Triple-A Syracuse to replace injured utility man Luis Guillorme (groin) for Monday’s road-trip opener in Atlanta, especially with switch-hitter Eduardo Escobar (left side tightness) unable to hit from the right side.

New York Mets Mark Vientos prepares to take batting practice before a spring training game against the Miami Marlins, Monday, March 21, 2022, in Jupiter, FL.
With a vacancy in the infield after Luis Guillorme went on the injured list, the Mets chose not to promote slugging infield prospect Mark Vientos.
Corey Sipkin

According to Post beat writer Mike Puma, Showalter indicated the Mets preferred someone who also could provide coverage in the middle of the infield to replace Guillorme’s versatility, and Deven Marrero arrived just before game-time ahead of the Mets’ unsightly 13-1 loss to the Braves.

Meanwhile, the Yankees extended their recent slide with a 4-0 loss at home Monday night against the Rays. But with DJ LeMahieu out of the lineup while nursing a toe issue — and the 4-9 spots in the lineup going a combined 3-for-19, including another rough night for Aaron Hicks — fans obviously would love to get a look at 22-year-old infield prospect Oswald Peraza, perhaps for a much-needed spark.

Tennis, anyone?

Emma Raducanu, Serena Williams
U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu is scheduled to meet Serena Williams on Tuesday night in a hardcourt warmup tournament in Cincinnati.
Getty Images (2)

No one knows how long Serena Williams will last at the U.S. Open later this month amid her decision to “evolve away from tennis,” and the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion will face last year’s U.S. Open winner, Emma Raducanu of England, on Tuesday night in the first round at the Cincinnati Masters in what may be the second-to-last match of Williams’ storied career.

It will mark the first — and almost certainly, the last — time the 19-year-old Raducanu will face the 40-year-old Williams in her career.

“It will be an exciting match, I’m looking forward to it,” Raducanu told reporters. “It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to play her unless I draw her in New York, but I think whatever happens, it’s just going to be a great memory that I’ll always have.”

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