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Drive by Drive: Zach Wilson v. Philadelphia Eagles

Drive by Drive: Zach Wilson v. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week we looked at No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, who has struggled in his first NFL campaign while playing for one of the worst teams in the league. This week, we will look at the No. 2 overall pick, Zach Wilson, who has struggled in his first NFL campaign while playing for one of the worst teams in the league. His fault? Team issues? Both? Let’s dive into the tape of the Jets loss against the Eagles on Sunday… 

First Drive: Starting on PHI 21, 14:49 left in first quarter, tied 0-0 

After a long return on the opening kick, the Jets are set up just outside of the redzone. Tevin Coleman gets a carry to start the drive, then a quick swing pass from Wilson to Coleman, followed by a screen pass to Coleman and another short run for the starting RB, setting up New York with a 3rd and 2 from the three-yard line. Play-action to Coleman and Wilson hits Elijah Moore on a slant to the back of the endzone for a touchdown. It’s Wilson’s first TD pass since Week 4 and first in his last 80 passing attempts. 

Second Drive: Starting on own 32, 9:25 left in the first quarter, Eagles lead 7-6 

Drive starts with a short run and an incomplete pass as Wilson throws wide on a quick slant. Third-and-medium is converted when Wilson fires into Corey Davis right at the sticks, though the pass is a little behind the WR. Another quick completion, followed by a PHI penalty, ANOTHER quick pass, a 17-yard Coleman run, a nine-yard reverse to Moore and a short Coleman run for a first down brings the Jets to the PHI 12 for 1st and 10. Another swing pass, this one to Jamison Crowder, puts the ball inside the one-yard line. Wilson runs a QB sneak, is stopped, and then does it again and gets in. Two drives, two scores, but very little asked of the young QB so far. 

Third Drive: Starting on own 25, 14:12 left in the second quarter, Eagles lead 14-12 

The drive starts with a 15-yard by Coleman who has been the clear focal point thus far. That focus allows the Jets to run play-action on the next play and Wilson finally cuts one loose, hitting an open Elijah Moore down-the-field for 29 yards; it’s Wilson’s first throw of 10+ and 20+ air yards in the game. A run and a screen pass make it 3rd and 4 from the PHI 25. Wilson takes the shotgun, empty-set snap and head fakes before turning to Jamison Crowder and rips another throw in for a 19-yard gain (9 YAC) inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line. 

Two Coleman runs bring up a 3rd and goal from the one. The Jets run a play-action rollout and Wilson has a wide-open Elijah Moore in the back of the endzone and he just flat-out misses him; he tries to make the throw while his feet are moving and can’t connect. Despite the miss, the Jets go for it on fourth-and-goal and Ryan Griffin comes wide open in essentially the exact same spot as Moore on the previous play, but this time a stationary Wilson is able to hit him, and the Jets score a touchdown for the third consecutive drive. But they fail on the two-point conversion and have 18 points after two missed PAT kicks. Wilson has started the game 11-13 passing with 103 yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing score. On this drive he finally had an opportunity to cut it loose and made a couple nice throws, along with a bad miss on a potential TD. 

Fourth Drive: Starting on own 30, 4:30 left in the second quarter, Eagles lead 21-18

The Eagles, like the Jets, score touchdowns on their first three drives, as six drives into the game we have six touchdowns on the board. That streak comes to an end, though, as the Jets quickly go three-and-out. Wilson connects on a short throw and a Coleman run sets up a manageable 3rd and 3, but Wilson gets sacked, and the Jets are forced to punt.

Fifth Drive: Starting on own 30, 6:33 left in the third quarter, Eagles lead 27-18

Wilson tries to hit Coleman coming out of the backfield on a quick out route but throws behind him and it falls incomplete. Next play is a run for Coleman, who gains three. 3rd and 7, Wilson tries to hit a covered Elijah Moore and the pass is nearly intercepted but falls incomplete. Regardless, it’s back-to-back three and outs as the Jets punt it away. New York gained 159 yards on their first three drives and have gained -1 over the past two. 

Sixth Drive: Starting on own 25, 14:15 left in the fourth quarter, Eagles lead 30-18 

Philly dominated the third quarter, possessing the ball for all but 1:10. In fact, since the Jets last touchdown (scored with 9:22 left in the first half), the Eagles have had the ball for 21:18 out of the last 25:07 of game time (85%) and scored on all four drives (one touchdown and three field goals). 

Down two scores and now in the fourth quarter, the Jets get the ball back needing to answer. Another play-action rollout leads to another incomplete pass, and although this pass was better, it was still a shade overthrown (Davis could have come down with it, however). The next pass is another dart across the middle to Elijah Moore, again a little high, but Moore makes a nice snag for 18 yards. The Jets go with some trickery on the ensuing play, running a double-pass where Wilson ultimately hits an open Griffin for 14 yards near the sideline. A broken screen play on second down leads to a throw-away and then Wilson has an open Moore on second down for a would-be big play (20-yard throw) but misses him. It’s a miscommunication as Moore broke his route to the inside, but the throw was to the outside. Now 3rd and 10, Wilson sails a pass over the middle that is easily intercepted by a waiting safety. 

Seventh Drive: Starting on own 25, 9:42 left in the fourth quarter, Eagles lead 33-18

Now down two touchdowns with under 10 minutes left, the Jets enter no-huddle offense as the Eagles secondary starts to back off. Wilson is able to complete some quick passes, including an impressive throw on the run (his first while moving). Eventually, though, Wilson throws four consecutive incomplete passes that lead to a turnover on downs. One was a deep shot that was well played by DB Darius Slay, the next was an overthrow on a short route to the RB, the third-down throw was another deep shot that didn’t have much chance and on fourth down Wilson danced around looking for an open receiver and eventually threw low on a pass that wouldn’t have converted a first down, anyway. 

Eighth Drive: Starting on own 19, 1:48 left in the fourth quarter, Eagles lead 33-18

With a two-touchdown lead and under two minutes to play, the Eagles completely back off, allowing Wilson to pad his stats a bit by completing five-of-seven passes for 43 yards before the clock eventually runs out and the game ends. 

Final thoughts:

Quite a bit to unpack from this one, but overall Zach Wilson played poorly. Although the Jets scored touchdowns on their first three drives, it was heavily driven by the game plan: nearly every throw was a short, timing throw that required only one read from Wilson. They ran a lot of screen and swing passes, while also getting the run game established. Wilson made a few nice throws on the third drive, set up by play-action. He struggled with throws while moving to his right, which hurt the team because he had open options when they went to it. The Eagles got very little pass rush as the Jets’ success on the ground kept them at bay. Even still, Wilson is mostly a one-read passer who still misses too many open throws. 

It’s understood that the Jets haven’t surrounded him with a glut of talent, but this game was a perfect situation for a quarterback, and he did not thrive as you would expect from a highly-touted prospect. While Trevor Lawrence displayed some of the same young-QB issues – missed throws, miscommunications with receivers – I would attribute more to his surrounding cast than I would for Wilson in this one. His teammates – at least on offense, the defense couldn’t stop anyone — did their jobs for the most part and the coaching staff put him in position to succeed. This is going to be a massive offseason for Wilson who needs to make some big strides, quickly, or we’re going to start hearing the word “bust” being thrown around. He has the arm talent and athleticism to succeed, but his accuracy and football IQ leave a lot to be desired.