Zach Wilson was in full uniform in the New York Jets locker room long after the game, getting some words of encouragement from tight end Tyler Conklin and some of his teammates.
Even though the Jets had just lost 30-10 to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, with Wilson thrust back into the starting role after four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles four snaps in the season opener a week earlier, they don't see the same young quarterback who struggled so much the past two years.
"He's a completely different player, in my opinion. Going through his reads, sitting in the pocket. I mean, they have a good D-line. They create a lot of pressure," Conklin said. "We have complete trust and faith in him. ... We're going to keep making sure he knows we got his back."
Plus, Wilson and the Jets (1-1) really didn't get a lot of chances on offense. They had the ball for less than 18 minutes, and the three interceptions in the fourth quarter occurred while trying to make a comeback.
"Up until we had to force it, I thought he did a really nice job," Jets coach Robert Saleh said.
There was the 68-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson in the second quarter, and the quarterback's three consecutive scrambles to pick up 33 yards on a drive in the final 2 minutes that resulted in field goal and had New York within 18-10 at halftime.
Wilson finished 12-of-27 passing for 170 yards and was sacked three times. He was the team's leading rusher with five carries for 36 yards.
Wilson, the second overall pick out of BYU in the 2021 draft, dropped to 8-15 as the Jets starter. That record doesn't include the Jets' 22-16 overtime victory over the Bills in the season opener, when Wilson took over after Rodgers got hurt. Wilson was 14-of-21 passing for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception in that game.
"It was nice having a week to prepare. And I thought I knew the scheme well. I thought I was seeing it well, getting through my progressions and reads," Wilson said. "We just couldn't get over the hump and keep some drives established and going."
The loss to the Cowboys was played in the same stadium where Rodgers was the Super Bowl MVP when the Green Bay Packers beat Pittsburgh, 31-25. Rodgers' coach in that game was Mike McCarthy, now the coach in Dallas.
When the Jets acquired Rodgers in April, they had visions of maybe reaching similar heights.
Now they are back with Wilson, whose struggles during his first two NFL seasons put a massive dent in his confidence. He was benched twice last season and his playing future — particularly with the Jets — was uncertain when Rodgers got to town.
After Wilson's long TD pass in the second quarter, offensive tackles Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton were celebrating with the quarterback in the backfield even before Garrett Wilson had crossed the goal line on what was a one-play drive.
In the end, however, the Jets had only 215 total yards and a loss.
Asked if he was better suited than in the past to handle things when games don't go as expected, he said absolutely.
"I feel like I'm seeing it well. I really do," Wilson said. "It's a long season. We're going to watch this film and see how we can improve. You know, everyone trusts and believes in each other and we all love each other, so we're excited for the challenge."
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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