Zach Wilson hasn’t seen live game action in about six weeks.
But Sunday could be a rude awakening for the second-year quarterback out of BYU against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Wilson is expected to start Sunday after being cleared by doctors on Wednesday following his knee procedure last month.
So how has Wilson looked in his return?
“The thing that stuck out to me the most was just how free and how excited he is to be back out there with his teammates,” Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “He’s pumped and it’s going to take myself and the rest of the offensive unit, everyone. It’s not just him.
“We can’t go into Sunday trying to get all six weeks that he missed all back in one play, one quarter, one half, one game. Just go play your game and make the most of each opportunity you get and handle each play as it is.”
Wilson hasn’t played a game since the preseason opener on Aug. 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles where he suffered a bone bruise and a meniscus tear in his right knee. Four days later, Wilson had arthroscopic surgery in Los Angeles.
Throughout training camp, coaches and players spoke about how improved Wilson was compared to his rookie campaign, where he threw 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions and struggled with consistency. With the setback because of his injury, Wilson has been working to return to the level coaches said he was at during training camp.
Before he was officially cleared, Wilson participated in practices on a limited basis. That would consist of working with trainers and some light throwing.
The Jets ramped up his practice regimen the last week.
“This is the most reps I’ve gotten with him,” wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. “Back in camp, he stretched the play, you gotta stay live throughout the whole play.
“The scramble play is going to be huge for us with Zach back there. You’re never dead as the ball can go up as he has a cannon and he can put it anywhere on the field. We are all excited as receivers to play with Zach.”
Now that Wilson is back, he will face a Steelers defense that’s tied for eighth in the league in sacks, and Pittsburgh also has a plus-3 turnover ratio.
After sitting for six weeks, Wilson could be a bit rusty Sunday. Not only has he missed a lot of time due to injury, but he has also missed valuable reps with receivers like Wilson, Elijah Moore and others in the process.
The Steelers will be without reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt as he is out due to a pectoral injury. Although Watt won’t play, the Steelers defense still has a talented unit led by defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
Pittsburgh is 12th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA defensive metrics and 12th in DVOA against the pass and has five interceptions in three games this season.
The Jets will hope that after missing a significant period, Wilson won’t try to do too much in his first game back under center.
“I don’t know, it’s like anything else. I’m not a golfer, I don’t golf very often,” LaFleur said. “But when I haven’t played in forever, my best game is sometimes the first time when I pick up a club.
“Obviously, it’s a way different analogy, there’s a lot of variables into. But he’s prepared both in the classroom and on the field and in the weight room doing everything that he can to make sure he is picking up where he picked off during training camp.”