Zach Wilson
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Zach Wilson did not have a rookie season to remember. Injuries, a last-ranked defense, young coaching staff, and tough division prevented him from a strong first year.

But things seem to be on the up and up for the young Jets quarterback. Wilson now has more experience in Mike LaFleur’s offense, a plethora of young weapons, and an improved offensive line (as long as tackle Mekhi Becton stays on the field).

That doesn’t mean Wilson will overcome his own health issues, however. And to one NFL executive, doing that will be crucial to the team’s 2022 success.

“They could be a playoff team if he protects the football and stays healthy,” the exec told ESPN.

Is this bar too low? Sure, the turnovers (11 interceptions, one lost fumble) and injuries (four missed games due to a knee injury) underlined Wilson’s underwhelming rookie campaign. But if the Jets are going to go from a four-win team to a playoff ballclub, Wilson will need to do a lot more than just maintain his own health as a game manager.

Star quarterback play is the key to winning in this league — it’ll especially be in a conference that includes a number of elite passers. While Wilson isn’t projected to play at the same level as some of his AFC counterparts (like Josh Allen of the Bills or Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs), he must make massive improvements that are above and beyond what the executive suggests.

Mac Jones was able to take the Patriots to the playoffs as just a game-managing rookie quarterback. But Wilson doesn’t have Bill Belichick overseeing his development though. Nor does he have Josh McDaniels calling his plays or an elite Patriots defense taking pressure away from him.

Much of the Jets’ success will be based on the play of their young quarterback. If the Jets are going to play January football, in a division that includes Allen and Belichick no less, Wilson must consistently portray the talent that got him drafted No. 2 overall in 2021.

And he should be on the right track to do it, especially with all the offseason additions (guard Laken Tomlinson, tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and rookie running back Breece Hall).

Wilson has the tools, the experience in the offense, and the supporting cast. The bar is much higher than the NFL executive suggests, and the second-year passer must deliver.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.