In three of the New York Jets’ past four games, they have had a quarterback throw at least two touchdown passes.
The only problem? None of those signal-callers was the guy whom they are paying $35.15 million in guaranteed money, the one the franchise is hoping will finally lead them out of a decade-long slump.
But that man will be back this Sunday.
Rookie Zach Wilson returns to the lineup after missing four games with a sprained right knee when the Jets visit the Houston Texans in a matchup of 2-8 teams. New York has lost three straight and the Texans broke an eight-game skid by upending AFC South leader Tennessee.
And it’s about high time the Jets get … boring?
That’s the way Jets head coach Robert Saleh sees it. New York might have to plod through a boring game or three to get Wilson comfortable with winning.
“In my mind, it’s not boring football, it’s how can I put my team in the best position every single play? What’s the best decision for my team?” Wilson said. “Stats don’t matter. It’s that mindset of those big plays need to be there when they’re giving us those big plays. My mindset has to be to make them pay when they give us that play. I’m not thinking boring football. In my mind, it’s just playing the right way, honestly.”
In the latest twist in the Jets’ strange quarterback story, former backup and fill-in starter Mike White tested positive for COVID-19 and thus was placed on the team’s COVID list. Unvaccinated Joe Flacco, who passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Miami, also was put on the list as a close contact. Saleh said the decision to start Wilson was made before the other two quarterbacks became unavailable.
“It’s like we said before,” Saleh explained, “when (Wilson) got fully healthy, we’d make a decision, and the decision was most likely going to be that he’s back in there. So, as soon as we got clearance that he was fully healthy and he was ready to roll and he was good mentally, we were good with the decision.”
Despite their lowly record, the Texans might not be the best team for Wilson to return against. Houston has suddenly become ball-hawks, with five takeaways in each of its past two games after forcing only nine turnovers in its first eight contests. Miami’s Jacoby Brissett threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on Nov. 7, and after a Houston bye, the Texans picked off Ryan Tannehill four times.
Still, Houston had only 190 yards of total offense in that game.
“We played well enough to win,” Houston coach David Culley said. “We didn’t play as well as we need to play, moving forward, to win.
“One thing we did well,” he added, “was we protected the football.”
The Texans had no turnovers after committing four in a 17-9 loss to Miami.
Houston also recently had its starting quarterback return to action. Veteran Tyrod Taylor had two touchdown runs against the Titans but has yet to throw a scoring pass since returning to start the Miami game. He had been out since suffering a hamstring injury on Sept. 19 at Cleveland.
With Taylor missing for much of the season, and rookie Davis Mills struggling as his replacement, the Texans’ rushing game collapsed. Houston averages an NFL-low 3.2 yards a carry, as the Texans traded away Mark Ingram (Saints) and released Phillip Lindsay.
The Jets are allowing 4.6 yards per rush this season.
Culley acknowledged Wilson’s talent.
“There’s a reason why he was picked second” overall, but the Texans’ coach added, “I hope he has some of the issues our guy did” when Taylor came back.
Saleh hopes that seeing other quarterbacks have success in coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system will help Wilson going forward.
Saleh said, “Any time you have a chance to watch something through the lens of another player or a teammate, especially seeing it through Mike and then Josh (Johnson) and then Joe and he got to see Joe through a week of preparation and Mike through a week of preparation, I think it’s very beneficial. … I think there’s always tremendous value in that.”