Wilson cleared by doctors, will start for Jets at Pittsburgh
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Zach Wilson is back under center for the New York Jets.
Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday the second-year quarterback will make his season debut at Pittsburgh on Sunday “if all goes well this week” at practice, six weeks after having knee surgery.
“Absolutely, yeah,” Saleh said.
Wilson had been ramping up workouts in recent weeks, but Saleh said Monday the Jets were waiting for the quarterback’s doctors to clear him before making a decision about this week. Wilson was cleared to fully practice Wednesday as New York prepares for its game at Pittsburgh.
“It’s really just exciting for him to get back on the football field — it’s been six weeks,” Saleh said. “There’s a lot of different things that have to go around in terms of making sure that we run an efficient offense. From us as coaches to the O-line to receivers running routes — everyone’s involved.”
Joe Flacco started the first three games of the season, during which the Jets went 1-2 — including a stunning victory at Cleveland two weeks ago when they rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 1:55.
But New York has struggled with consistency on offense and has held a lead for just 22 seconds — the final moments of the win against the Browns.
“It is exciting to get him back out there, but at the same time, it’s not all about Zach,” Saleh said. “It’s making sure that we’re executing on all cylinders, as we should every week.”
Wilson suffered a bone bruise in the preseason opener against Philadelphia on Aug. 12 and needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He was initially expected to miss two to four weeks, but the Jets insisted they wouldn’t rush Wilson back to the field.
Saleh insisted there wasn’t any added concern about bringing Wilson back while the Jets deal with questions on the offensive line. Starting left tackle George Fant was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, joining Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton on the sideline.
“His knee, it’s 100%,” Saleh said of Wilson. “As far as the tackles go, we’ve got all the faith in the world in the guys we do have.”
The 23-year-old Wilson is the focal point of a franchise looking to end an 11-year playoff drought — the NFL’s longest active skid.
After a rookie season that was marked by early struggles, a sprained PCL that sidelined him four games and a solid finish when he returned, Wilson is being counted on to take a leap in his progress.
He appeared more confident and accurate in training camp, especially in the two weeks before he was injured.
Saleh previously acknowledged the injury this summer was a setback for Wilson because he was missing valuable practice time and snaps in preseason games.
But the coach also said Wilson was taking mental reps throughout and wouldn’t need a ramp-up period before playing.
The Jets didn’t put Wilson on injured reserve so he could practice with the team while he worked his way back from the injury. He participated in 7-on-7 drills last week after practice with practice squad players and backups.
“The practice aspect was very important,” Saleh said. “We kept him engaged, he was fully involved in all the walkthroughs and the meetings, and was still able to get the extra work in, with regards to throwing and putting strain on the knee.
“So, he’s very comfortable, he’s in a great mental state and everyone’s very comfortable with where he’s at physically. And he’s ready to roll.”