The Jets and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson are set to face Bill Belichick twice in their first six regular-season games.
A rookie NFL quarterback starting immediately isn’t the most common occurrence in today’s game.
Patrick Mahomes didn’t do it; Baker Mayfield didn’t do it; Jared Goff was initially a backup and so was Tua Tagovailoa.
Zach Wilson of the Jets, however, may quickly be in the limelight. As of right now, the 2021 No. 2 overall draft pick out of BYU is essentially set to start Week 1 for a team coming off a two-win 2020 campaign.
The Jets improved the offensive side of the ball (which will assist in the young quarterback’s development) by acquiring wide receivers Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter, and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. However, this is still a young group that will need time to gel, so a number of matchups in 2021 could be immensely challenging.
That includes the pair of meetings with the division-rival Patriots — Wilson, if all goes as planned, will need to face New England in two of his first six career games; what will be an enormous test for the young quarterback.
Now I understand if you don’t think too highly of that team over in Foxborough at the moment. The Pats going 7-9 and missing the postseason last year basically signaled the conclusion of a near-20-year dynasty. And of course, Tom Brady departing the Massachusetts area to go win another title in Tampa led to some not taking New England as seriously as they once did.
But future Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick will still be constructing an in-depth game plan to completely take Wilson’s weapons out of the game and thus minimize the quarterback’s on-field ability.
And when you take into consideration the multiple setbacks the Pats experienced last year — the significant number of opt-outs due to the pandemic, Cam Newton catching COVID-19 and not returning to his truly effective early-season form, and Bill not possessing much talent to work with — you realize finishing 7-9 is pretty darn impressive.
That’s how good Belichick is, even without Brady; he’ll surely introduce that notable level of football-related intelligence when facing a young Jets team.
And with the money spent on the defensive side of the ball to acquire defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, linebacker Matt Judon, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy along with the draft picks used to select Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore and Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins, this New England defense should undergo an improvement from last year — another bad sign for the Jets signal-caller.
It’s additionally worth noting how rookie first-round quarterbacks have fared against Belichick’s squad in recent years.
Over the last five seasons, a first-year quarterback taken in the opening round has started against the Patriots seven times — Jared Goff in 2016, Deshaun Watson in 2017, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen in 2018, Daniel Jones in 2019, and then Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert in 2020.
The aforementioned individuals, against Belichick’s defense, combined for a 1-6 record (average deficit of 17.4 points) with a 54.5% completion rate, 1,361 passing yards (194.4 per game), five touchdowns (.71 per game), 12 interceptions (1.71 per game), and 16 sacks (2.3 per game).
Not ideal numbers to say the least; the statistics further prove how daunting of a task it will be for Zach Wilson to face New England and its legendary head coach twice early in the season.