Zach Wilson's Hall of Fame Game appearance was abbreviated, lasting just 11 plays over three drives before he gave way to veteran backup Tim Boyle in the New York Jets' 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
Wilson slipped trying to scramble on his first third down, ending the opening drive with a three-and-out. On his second series, the former first-rounder uncorked a beautiful deep shot that traveled 40 air yards and went for a 57-yard gain to Malik Taylor. The drive, however, would peter out with a field goal.
After the game, Wilson credited Aaron Rodgers with the play call on the deep shot.
"Yeah, great call by Aaron Rodgers," Wilson said, via the team's transcript. "Had to give him a little shoutout there. Yeah, backed up, taking a shot down the field. Kind of pick your matchup. Those guys were kind of just playing single-safety man. I think that's great for preseason ball, so you can see what guys can win and separate. Malik's done a great job all of training camp, so I wanted to go to his side. I liked the matchup with the corner as well. He did a great job winning."
The big pass accounted for pretty much all of Wilson's production. He finished 3-of-5 passing for 65 yards. Perhaps an indication of the state of the Jets' backup QB situation, those numbers still led Gang Green on Thursday night.
It's a pivotal season for Wilson. Not because anything is expected of the former No. 2 overall pick, but rather because he finally should have the chance to develop in the background. Grow his game while Rodgers soaks up the spotlight and return hopefully for the better next year and beyond.
Thursday's brief outing didn't allow for much analysis of his progress, but Jets head coach Robert Saleh liked what he saw.
"Zach did a good job, he was poised, looked comfortable in the pocket, delivered the ball on schedule and definitely something to build on," Saleh said after the game.
Wilson should play plenty in the final three preseason games, and the Jets hope to see more improvement along the way before he hits the sideline as Rodgers' understudy.
"For him, just rebuilding that confidence and swag that we fell in love within the draft process and all that stuff, and I think he is getting it," Saleh said. "I said it before, he is a rookie all over again, all the footwork is different, the verbiage is different, the way Aaron plays quarterback, and the way (offensive coordinator Nathaniel) Hackett teaches quarterback is a little bit different, so there is a lot of learning and I think he has been attacking the heck out of it and doing a really nice job."