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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Antwan Staley

Jets QB Zach Wilson is ’grateful’ for second consecutive start

NEW YORK — Zach Wilson will get another chance to prove he should be the Jets starting quarterback.

Jets coach Robert Saleh announced that Wilson will start his ninth game of the season and second consecutive game Thursday night against the Jaguars. Mike White, who started in place of Wilson after he was benched last month, still has not been cleared for contact as his injury is considered week-to-week.

“I’m grateful to be playing and be playing here in New York,” Wilson said on Tuesday. “Really just trying to go out there and do my best and support the guys around me and put us in the best position possible and let the rest take care of itself.

“Just be as present as possible.”

Wilson received all the first-team reps during practice as the Jets only had walkthroughs with the game on Thursday night. White did practice, but has been limited the last few days.

Last Sunday was the first time Wilson started since he was benched for White nearly a month ago following the Jets 10-3 loss to the Patriots on Nov. 20. In that game. Wilson completed just 9 of 22 passes for 78 yards. The Jets wanted to give Wilson an opportunity to reset and work on his mechanics.

Wilson had a better performance in the Jets 20-17 loss to the Lions as he finished 18 of 35 for 317 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. However, Wilson was inconsistent during the second half as he threw a critical interception that translated into three points for the Lions. He also missed open receivers as he struggled to complete passes from the pocket.

In eight games this season, Wilson has thrown for 1,596 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.

“You guys saw the big plays that we had offensively,” Wilson said. “I think those are always a plus, those are hard to get in the NFL.

“How consistent can we be with the first and second downs just playing manageable football. Once we add those explosive plays, how good can we be as an offense.”

At 7-7, the Jets are currently trying to find their way back into the top seven seeds in the AFC. Gang Green is currently at the ninth spot, a game behind Miami for the final spot in the conference.

To do that, the Jets will need to break out of a funk as they’ve lost three consecutive games and five of their last seven following a 5-2 start to the season. With their playoff hopes on near-life support, the Jets may need to win their final three games just to qualify for the postseason.

The Jets will be facing a Jaguars (6-8) team that climbed back into the playoff race. Jacksonville won two consecutive games and three of its last four, as it’s only one game behind Tennessee for the AFC South division lead.

Saleh had a difficult time this year as a second-year coach trying to develop young players while simultaneously competing for a spot in the playoffs. Although Wilson has had his struggles, Saleh still believes in the second-year quarterback.

“There is balance as there’s 52 other guys on the roster, plus you got the practice squad, scouts, coaches and everybody,” Saleh said. “No one is going to give up on someone just because they feel like they don’t show it from Year 1 to Year 2 like move on, it is a completely different position, but the one that pops in my head is Quincy Williams. He’s a linebacker, a young man that played nickel at a small school and it takes time.

“The quarterback position, it takes time. There’s quarterbacks through the history of time that needed just a little bit longer to find their groove. Zach, he has a lot of things that you just can’t teach, you just can’t teach some of the things that he does.

“For him, it is just learning the timing and the rhythm aspect of it. Learning the intermediate pass game and just find all of that consistency for four quarters. When he is in rhythm and he is hitting on all cylinders, it’s pretty cool. The balance is you’re always trying to win football games first and you hope the development is happening all at the same time, but the object of the game is to win.”

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