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Jets’ Robert Saleh praises Zach Wilson’s ‘fortitude’ in ‘big step’

Jets coach Robert Saleh was not prepared to say who his starting quarterback will be Thursday against the Jaguars, but he did defend probable starter Zach Wilson. 

“The frustrating thing is this kid is going to be a good quarterback,” Saleh said. “The NFL and this new instant-coffee world that we’re in just does not want to give people time. We look at him and he is just nit-picked with a fine-tooth comb, everything he does.” 

Wilson had an up-and-down performance against the Lions in place of Mike White, who has broken ribs. Wilson completed seven passes that went for 20 yards or more and led the Jets to a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. But he also threw a killer interception in the third quarter and struggled on some easy throws to open receivers. Wilson completed 18 of 35 passes for 317 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. 

“He did a lot of really good things,” Saleh said. “We’re going to try our best to try to focus on the things that he did good and make sure that we kind of bring that to life and we’ll continue to work on the things he needs to improve on.” 

Zach Wilson passes during the Jets' loss to the Lions on Sunday.
Zach Wilson passes during the Jets’ loss to the Lions on Sunday.
Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh was impressed with the ‘fortitude’ that Zach Wilson showed in his return.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

White is undergoing more scans on his ribs to see if they have healed enough for him to play against the Jaguars but it sounds like the Jets don’t expect the doctors to clear White, which will lead to another start from Wilson. 

“There are a lot of hurdles that he would have to go through,” Saleh said of White. 

Saleh praised Wilson for not falling apart after an ugly third quarter that started with the interception and featured some terrible throws. Wilson showed poise in the fourth quarter, leading the Jets to a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead and then making a couple of huge throws on their final drive that put them in position to attempt a 58-yard field goal. 

“He came out in the second half and I think we all agree he was missing on some throws, he was missing on some reads,” Saleh said. “But for him to kind of get himself back on track, I thought that was really good by him and a big step in the direction he’d been struggling with in the past. It just shows at least some maturation, in my mind, with regards to mental fortitude in terms of getting back on track and finding a way to finish the game strong.” 

Sunday was Wilson’s first start after being inactive for three games while he underwent a “reset” on his mechanics. Saleh said when it does come time to decide between a healthy White and Wilson, the fact that Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick in 2021 won’t matter. 

“Once you get drafted, it doesn’t matter,” Saleh said. “That’s something I learned from Pete [Carroll]. I don’t care how much you get paid. I don’t care where you’ve been drafted. If you’re better by that much [holding his fingers close together], you’re going to play. That will never change.”

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