Breaking down Zach Wilson’s busy first Jets practice

Zach Wilson’s bank account got a lot bigger this week when he signed his contract with the Jets after a brief standoff over the language in the deal.

Wilson will get his $22.9 million signing bonus within the next 15 days. When asked Friday if he had a dream purchase to make with that new money, Wilson delivered a line to make Jets fans smile.

“You can’t buy a Super Bowl, so I guess I have to work for that,” the 21-year-old rookie quarterback said.

Wilson went through his first training camp practice Friday after missing the first two days of camp while his agent and the Jets haggled over his contract. With that behind him, now he can worry about football.

His first practice was a rough one, which was not a surprise considering it was his first time facing a defense in six weeks. Wilson completed 5-of-10 passes in team drills with one interception. There were some passes that sailed high and some that were behind receivers. The Jets gave him all of the first-team reps and even a few with the second team as he tries to catch up after missed time.

Zach Wilson at his first official Jets practice on July 30, 2021.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Jets coach Robert Saleh chalked his struggles up to the defense being ahead of the offense at this point in training camp and said this is all just part of his learning curve.

“For him, it’s getting caught up, finding a way to get better every day,” Saleh said. “I know sometimes we can get focused on results, but there’s process. He’s got a tremendous process. You can’t control certain things that happen play in and play out but you can control your process and how you approach things day in and day out.”

Wilson echoed his coach, saying he will learn from the mistakes he made.

“That’s what practice is for,” Wilson said. “Every day is going to have something frustrating. That’s why I’m out here. I’m just trying to learn each day, just knowing my plays better and the different looks the defense is throwing at us. It’s going to be a process.”

The Jets selected Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick out of BYU, moving on from Sam Darnold and tabbing Wilson to be their next would-be franchise savior. There was a hiccup this week as Wilson was the last draft pick to sign his contract as the two sides argued not over money, but contract language.

Zach Wilson at his first official Jets practice on July 30, 2021.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Wilson said he was anxious to get to camp as he trained in California with his personal coach, John Beck. On Wednesday night, Wilson took a red-eye flight to New Jersey and then signed his contract Thursday afternoon.

“There’s a part of you want to just get it done but you want to get it done the right way,” Wilson said. “It’s a rookie contract that you’re going to have to play with for four years. You’ve got to handle the business side of it where both sides of the party can agree. We just had to make sure we got that done.”

Saleh stopped short of saying Wilson is going to be the starting quarterback for Week 1 in Carolina, but it is clear that barring something crazy, Wilson is the guy.

Zach Wilson at his first official Jets practice on July 30, 2021.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“Call it the inside lane. It’s his to lose,” Saleh said. “I never want to make a promise I can’t keep. He took all the first team reps. It’s just a matter of him continuing to get better like we know he will.”

Wilson has already been hit with a difficult situation to deal with after the death of assistant coach Greg Knapp, who was the main coach working with Wilson in the spring. Knapp died last week after getting hit by a car while riding his bike.

“At first it was shock just because I had just been talking to him the day before the incident happened,” Wilson said. “It was almost like I didn’t believe it. I felt like I could have called him right then and he would have picked up the phone and answered. It really hit kind of later on. I was like, ‘this is rough.’ I was just praying for him and his family. It’s tough, man. Life is a precious thing.”