Zach Wilson injury continues alarming trend for Jets’ quarterbacks
Zach Wilson limps and is sent to the locker room after first quarter non-contact injury vs. the Eagles. (0:36)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Here they go again: Everybody knows the Jets have a star-crossed history when it comes to developing quarterbacks, and one of the reasons is because they can’t keep them out of the trainer’s room.
For the second time in 10 months, Zach Wilson is staring at the likelihood of missing regular-season games due to an injury to his right knee. While the Jets haven’t ruled him out for the opener, the most realistic scenario is Joe Flacco starting a game or two. One of the knocks on Wilson during the 2021 draft process was his durability (shoulder surgery and a thumb injury in college), and he has done nothing to change that narrative.
Wilson, who missed four games last season, can’t improve if he’s dealing with stops and starts due to injuries. He still plays young (see: his unnecessary scramble Friday night that resulted in the injury), and the only thing that can change that is time and repetition. The same thing happened to Sam Darnold, who missed three games in 2018 (foot), three in 2019 (mononucleosis) and four in 2020 (shoulder).
If we’re listing quarterbacks whose careers were sabotaged by injuries, start with Joe Namath in the early 1970s. Another example is Chad Pennington, who was on his way to big things before shoulder injuries in 2004 and 2005. Mark Sanchez’s Jets career ended with a shoulder injury in 2013, though he already was on the way out.
The last quarterback to start every game in a season? Ryan Fitzpatrick, 2015. Fitz Magic, indeed.
Flacco, 37, hasn’t won a start since 2019, but he’s a seasoned pro who will make the right decisions. His lack of mobility will limit the offense, of course. Yes, he outplayed Wilson on some days early in training camp, but let’s be real: No one is showing up Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium to see Flacco lead the offense.
The Wilson injury, while not a full-blown disaster, is a buzzkill. The franchise is all too familiar with that feeling.
2. Frustrated Mims: It was an unusual sight: There was wide receiver Denzel Mims talking with Saleh in the middle of the field the other day, away from the rest of the players — during practice. It’s uncommon to see a player in Saleh’s space. A few days later, they had another one-on-one conversation on the field during a break. They’ve also had private chats behind the scenes.
Something is going on. Mims, who already has stated his belief that he’s good enough to be a starter, isn’t happy with his opportunities.
“Yeah, he expresses that, and he should express it,” Saleh said before the preseason opener. “If he didn’t think he was a starter, I would think there would be a severe problem. … He’s getting better and he does express frustration, but at the same time it’s not fazing his day-to-day approach, which is awesome.”
On Friday night, Mims capped an odd week with a mixed performance. He made two catches for 25 yards, but he also had a drop and an illegal-formation penalty. He played only 15 offensive snaps, none with the starters. He was the seventh wide receiver to enter the game. The weird thing is, he received a lot of positive feedback from the coaches during the run-up to the game, sources said.
Mims hasn’t requested a trade, although it’s believed that some teams would be interested if general manager Joe Douglas decided to shop him. Mims lives only a few miles away from the Dallas Cowboys‘ facility, and everybody knows the Cowboys are hurting at receiver — although they have expressed confidence in their current group.
It’s hard to imagine Douglas giving up on a 2020 second-round pick, but if the right offer comes along … who knows? Right now, his roster spot is in jeopardy.
3. Historically hurt: You’d be hard-pressed to find many players who have experienced worse luck with injuries than Mekhi Becton (knee), who is expected to miss the season, a source said. Consider his first three seasons:
2020: 14 games played.
2021: One game.
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No offensive lineman drafted in the top 15 since 1990 will have played in fewer games than Becton over his first three seasons if he misses all of 2022, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last player with fewer games was John Clay, picked 15th overall by the Raiders in 1987. He played just 12 games across his first two seasons, never making it to a third year.
Even though Saleh said Becton’s “ride is not over,” it’s fair to wonder about his future. He’s having surgery for the second time on his right knee, both involving the knee cap. That, combined with history of weight and conditioning issues, will surely make a comeback more challenging.
Defensive end Carl Lawson, who has overcome two ACL surgeries and a ruptured Achilles’, knows how grueling rehab can be. He said Becton faces “a tough road,” especially if he pays attention to the negativity on social media. “It might cloud his judgment, it might not,” he said. “I don’t know what his story will be. If you want something, you find a way to sacrifice whatever you can and go get it.”
4. Easy does it: One of the keys to newly signed offensive tackle Duane Brown‘s success will be managing his practice reps. He will be 37 when the season starts, with 12,529 career snaps on his odometer. His knees are creaky, so he needs rest. The Seattle Seahawks did a great job of it last season, getting 17 starts out of him.
Brown sat out 20 of 51 regular-season practices, according to the official injury reports. There was only one week in which he practiced every day. In almost every case, he wasn’t listed with an injury, just a “rest” day.
The Jets figure to have a similar plan. The downside is that, being new to the team and the system, he needs to practice as much as possible. Only 12 training camp practices remain before they begin their Week 1 prep, including just seven in pads. The clock is ticking.
5. Checking in: Williams’ agent, Nicole Lynn of Klutch Sports, visited the Jets’ facility six days ago to meet with Douglas. No, this doesn’t mean a contract extension is imminent. The two sides have an open line of communication and touch base on occasion; it’s been going on for several months.
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Williams, entering his fourth season, is eligible for a new contract for the first time. With his fifth-year option, he’s under contract through 2023, so there’s no sense of urgency for the Jets. Williams can enhance his negotiating position with a monster year, and folks around the team said he’s having a great camp.
6. Second career: Speaking of agents, former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan is now a registered agent, according to the NFLPA directory. No word on if he has any clients.
7. The Richmond pipeline: When Douglas needs an offensive tackle, he looks to Richmond, Virginia. Consider:
Becton, Brown and Morgan Moses, a 2021 free-agent signing, all were born and attended high school in the Richmond area. Clearly, Douglas has an affinity for the city. He, too, was born and raised in the area. Where did he go to college? The University of Richmond, of course.
Memo to all Richmond natives with offensive line experience: Send game tapes to Douglas.
8. The last word: “Have a legendary day.” — linebacker Kwon Alexander at the end of each media session