New York Jets QB Zach Wilson quiet yet effective in NFL preseason debut

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Wilson guided the New York Jets to the only points of the MetLife Stadium civil war’s first half before giving way to Mike White.

Zach Wilson introduced himself to the NFL preseason scene in a quiet yet effective way on Saturday night, completing 6-of-9 passes for 63 yards in his unofficial professional debut. His first drive yielded the only points of the first half of the Jets’ preseason opener against the New York Giants, a 30-yard Chris Naggar field goal that gave Gang Green a 3-0 halftime lead.

Wilson was one of several touted quarterbacks from the 2021 draft’s first-round who starred on Saturday. While he probably didn’t match the hype generated from Justin Fields’ showcase in Chicago, his effective showing likely allowed the Jets to breathe a sigh of relief after a tough showing at the Jets’ Green & White Scrimmage in East Rutherford last weekend.

Situated at his own 36 at the start of his first drive, Wilson earned a pair of nine-yard connections with Corey Davis, moving the Jets into opposing territory. Assisted by 34 yards from Ty Johnson and Michael Carter, Wilson moved the Jets to the Giants’ 12-yard-line. An attempted third hook-up with Davis fell incomplete, leading to Naggar’s opening triple.

Wilson was forced to begin his next drive nine yards from his own end zone after a strong Riley Dixon punt. After Johnson got him out of the shadow of his own goalposts with a 10-yard carry, Wilson earned 16 yards on a nine-yard third down, firing a pass to Keelan Cole to keep the drive going.

Wilson appeared to have another third down conversion through an eight-yard to Jamison Crowder on third-and-four at the cusp of midfield, but a Cole penalty for offensive pass interference cost them the down. Undeterred, Wilson found Tyler Kroft for a 13-yard tally to set up a short, manageable fourth down. A run up the middle to Johnson on fourth-and-one failed to keep things alive, ending Wilson’s day at two possessions, as head coach Robert Saleh promised.

While Wilson was a bit stagnant in the pocket, his solid showing should allow to Jets to sleep a little easier after he completed 11-of-24 passes and was victimized by two interceptions in the intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday. Wilson’s numbers were almost equal to the one thrower chosen above him. Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars likewise completed 6-of-9 passes, outgaining Wilson with 71 yards, though he was sacked twice in a two-possession showing against Cleveland.

Wilson will return to preseason action next Saturday night, when the Jets travel to Green Bay to battle the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network). After his two possessions, Wilson gave way to second quarterback Mike White, who completed 13-of-19 passes for 127 yards.

The Jets currently lead the Giants 10-0 in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags