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Thursday night under the lights at MetLife Stadium, Jets fans will get an up-close-and-personal look at what a young, up-and-coming franchise quarterback looks like. Unfortunately, Trevor Lawrence will be providing tickets for the visiting Jaguars.

Zach Wilson? He’ll likely start one more time for the home team unless the Jets and/or Mike White can find a medical professional who thinks it’s a good idea to expose a man’s battered rib to the sheer brutality.

Maybe Wilson will light it up against Jacksonville and start a sudden run of prosperity that will stretch into next season and beyond. Maybe the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft will begin his rise to stardom by surpassing the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft; Hey, Wilson beat Lawrence to the punch last year, and he’ll get the last laugh after all. at the expense of haters on the verge of dismissing him as a bust.

Funny things happen in professional football, and it would certainly be a shame for Wilson to overcome his struggles and live up to his touted potential.

But the evidence continues to cut across the grain of that possibility. Lawrence, for example, totally looks like an NFL franchise player, and not just because at 6-foot-6, he’s 4 inches taller than Wilson. On Sunday, Lawrence threw for four touchdowns and 318 yards as the Jaguars upset the Cowboys, 40-34, in overtime.

Zach Wilson reacts during the Jets loss to the Lions.
Zach Wilson reacts during the Jets loss to the Lions.
Bill Kostru / New York Post

In his last three wins over Dallas, Tennessee and Baltimore, Lawrence has thrown for 1,007 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. He showed significant improvement from last year, making 31 of a possible 31 starts.

Wilson has shown virtually no improvement since his rookie season and has missed 10 career starts due to injury and poor play.

That doesn’t mean Wilson’s return to the field Sunday will be all rain after three weeks of watching White play his position at a higher level. In a 20-17 blowout loss to the Lions, Wilson showed everyone what Jets general manager Joe Douglas saw when he decided the BYU quarterback could be the one to finally lead the franchise to its first championship since January 1969. :

In the second quarter, he rolled to his left and fired deep to his right, a tribute to his famous Pro Day that turned the offseason talent hunt upside down to find CJ Uzoma for a 40-yard score. He rolled to his right in the final seconds of the game, showed special athleticism to avoid a rush and darted to his left to find Elijah Moore for the 20 yards he needed for a last-second overtime touchdown.

Alas, Greg Zuerlein missed a 58-yarder that could have dramatically changed the story of the day for Wilson and all of his teammates looking to make the Jets’ first playoff appearance since 2010.

Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson still doesn’t look like a franchise QB.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Wilson certainly felt it more than most. If Zuerlein had hit a field goal, the quarterback could have played the hero in overtime. Heck, if the Jets’ venerable defense had stopped on fourth-and-1 after the two-minute warning, instead of giving up a 51-yard touchdown run to an interception, Wilson’s second touchdown pass would have been minutes earlier. I entered the books as a winner.

“I’ve got to be better, man,” Wilson later admitted.

He fumbled a few relatively easy passes and had a brutal interception in a brutal third quarter to put Detroit in the lead.

“And you see those three points come back to us at the end,” Wilson said.

Fans booed him at times and Garrett Wilson again showed his frustration when Zach Wilson missed him over the middle. But the young receiver and young quarterback hugged later on the sideline.

“That guy fought,” Garrett Wilson said. “And any time you come into a game and you see the speed of the game and you get man coverage and you haven’t been in that position in three weeks, it’s going to be tough for you. And I thought he handled it really well, man. He showed great tenacity, especially late in the game, making some of the throws he made and hanging in there and gave us a chance to win the game. And that’s all you can ask for.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh didn’t credit Wilson for the Jacksonville game and seemed unimpressed with the overall performance, saying Wilson “played well” but suggesting he still needs some technique tweaks after that fundamental work. The truth is, Saleh could have helped Wilson with his timing on that last drive, and the running backs and line could have helped him do something better than 50 yards on 22 carries.

Zach Wilson, left.  hugs Gareth Wilson from the side.
Zach Wilson, left. hugs Gareth Wilson from the side.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

More than anything, Wilson needs to help himself.

“I got a lot of plays that I want to get back,” he said, “and so until I can fix them and make them easy, I’ve got to keep learning and just try to improve.”

Maybe Zach Wilson will improve enough to become a rising franchise player like Thursday night’s opponent, Trevor Lawrence. But right now, the odds are against it.



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