Jets' Wilson looks to keep playing loose and confident after his impressive outing
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Maybe it was Zach Wilson's headband.
The New York Jets quarterback scrapped his signature look last Sunday and went out and had arguably the best overall game of his brief NFL career.
“As the weather starts to cool down a little bit, I feel like I don't need it as much,” a smiling Wilson said Thursday. “I brought it back out these last two practices, but it's slowly going away.”
It's a matter of function, not fashion, Wilson insists, to keep the sweat out of his eyes. But headband or not under his helmet, Wilson went from being vilified last week by frustrated fans and critical media as a hopeless case to being praised for his playmaking and potential as a piece of the Jets' future in the span of four quarters.
“Yeah, just playing loose, playing free, momentum being on our side, getting drives going,” Wilson said.
Sudden success can do that for a player. The key is capitalizing on it and doing it again.
That's what Wilson is facing Sunday when he takes on the Broncos and their struggling defense in Denver.
“He’s done a great job blocking everything out and continually growing as a quarterback within the system,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I appreciate that about him and he knows that he has a lot more to give and we're just going to continue developing.”
In the Jets' 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Wilson set a personal high with 28 completions while throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns with a 2-point conversion run and a career-best 105.2 quarterback rating.
Despite that production, Wilson was disappointed after the game for fumbling away a snap that Kansas City turned into a game-sealing drive. He told his teammates the loss was on him and echoed that when he spoke to reporters.
“I think that growth is one of the most exciting things in football, is feeling improvement as an offense, individually (and) all the guys around,” Wilson said. "So for me, it really comes down to how can I have been better in that game? Yes, there was good things, but how can I take the things that would have helped us be even better?
“We didn’t win the game, so everyone needs to find those little things of how we can be better. And I absolutely found those things. So I do think there is excitement to say I can’t wait to try those again this next week and try to fix those things and reapply those things for the next week.”
Otherwise, the doubters and critics will be back in full force.
Wilson understands that's the fickle nature of sports and fandom, but he has also made a habit of tuning out the noise outside the facility.
“I think the great thing about that game was as good as everybody was saying that he did, he knows how much better he can be,” Hackett said. "I think that’s always great. You always want to grow in this game. ... I think it’s one of those things that he looks back at and goes, ‘Wow, look at all these other opportunities I had, and I played good.’
“I think for him it’s just continually growing. Don’t get too excited, don’t get too upset and stay the same and keep developing.”
The 24-year-old Wilson simply looked different against the Chiefs. He outplayed Patrick Mahomes for much of the game and was making the type of plays the Jets have seen only in flashes in Wilson's two-plus seasons.
“What I was feeling out there was similar to what I feel like I’ve been feeling since OTAs,” Wilson said. "So I think it felt good to be able to finally bring something from practice and the rhythm, the momentum, getting first downs. And this isn’t just me, it's the whole offense together. Being able to move the ball that way I think felt awesome.
“And that’s something that needs to be the standard to do every week.”
As far as his headband, well, that'll be a game-time decision in Denver.
“Yeah, we'll see,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Maybe I'll wear it this week, I don't know. I'm not superstitious like that.”
NOTES: CBs D.J. Reed (concussion) and Brandin Echols (hamstring) and LB Samuel Eguavoen (ankle) didn't practice for the second straight day. ... S Tony Adams (hamstring) was a full participant and on track to play after missing two games. ... The Jets signed OL Xavier Newman to the practice squad and released OL Adam Pankey from the practice squad. Newman was waived by Tennessee on Monday. He was signed by the Titans last year as an undrafted free agent out of Baylor and has experience with current Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter.
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