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5 questions with Gang Green Nation: Is Zach Wilson any better this season?

We spoke with SB Nation’s Jets blog about the Patriots’ Week 3 opponent.

New York Jets v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Standing at 0-2, the New England Patriots are in dire need of some success. They will hope to find it in Week 3 against a club they have dominated over the last few seasons: the New York Jets, losers of 14 straight against the Patriots, will host Bill Belichick’s team on Sunday afternoon.

In order to get a better understanding of who the Patriots will be up against in Week 3, we exchanged questions with MacGregor Wells of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Gang Green Nation — the SB Nation community for all things Jets.

Here is what MacGregor told us about the upcoming game.

1. Have you seen any improvement from Zach Wilson in Year 3?

We have seen incremental improvement. Prior to this season Wilson looked completely lost, unable to execute the most basic demands of the quarterback position at an NFL level. That has changed a bit this year. He still has major issues under pressure and in his decision making. But Wilson has improved in his mechanics and his accuracy and he has reined in his former tendency to play hero ball and try for the big play all the time, only to end up making a terrible play.

He does a better job of not bailing out of the pocket automatically and stepping up rather than retreating in the face of pressure. There are multiple signs of improvement, but this is still very much a work in progress, and Wilson is still one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

2. How are the Jets looking in the trenches offensively? Are they better than their pressure numbers suggest?

The Jets are looking pretty awful in pass protection. Left tackle Duane Brown has been atrocious. At 38 years old he looks done. Right tackle Mekhi Becton doesn’t have age as an excuse for his poor play. The interior line looks better, but only because the tackles have been so awful. All in all, the offensive line was a big concern coming into this season, and nothing we have seen to date suggests that concern was misplaced. With Zach Wilson being one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL when pressured, that does not bode well for the Jets’ prospects this season.

3. How does the Jets’ defensive line rotation work and where do the different pieces excel?

The Jets defensive line comes at opponents in waves, with constant rotations of personnel. All Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is the star of the unit. He plays about 70% of the snaps. Next to Williams on the interior line are Al Woods, a run stuffer, Quinton Jefferson, a pass rush specialist, and Solomon Thomas, none of whom play as much as 50% of the snaps. Micheal Clemons and John Franklin Myers also spend some time on the interior line, while also spending time on the edge.

On the edge the starters are John Franklin Myers and Jermaine Johnson, with Bryce Huff, Carl Lawson, and rookie Will McDonald also seeing snaps. The best pass rushers for the Jets on the edge are John Franklin Myers and Bryce Huff, with Jermaine Johnson, a first round pick last year, quickly improving as a pass rusher. The best at setting the edge are John Franklin Myers and Jermaine Johnson.

The only really top talent the Jets have on the defensive line is Quinnen Williams. The rest of the group consists of a lot of good, but not great, largely interchangeable parts who are kept fresh with a deep rotation.

The Jets don’t blitz too much, preferring to try to generate pressure on the quarterback with four defensive linemen. When it works it’s great, with the defensive line getting after the quarterback and seven defenders available in pass coverage to smother the opponent’s receivers. That’s the idea. It doesn’t always work out that way, but in general the defensive line is a very effective unit for the Jets.

4. Is there a weak spot in this talented Jets defense?

The weak spot in this defense is its pass coverage by linebackers and safeties. You can have success against this unit by exploiting that weakness with running backs, tight ends and slot receivers in pass routes. In addition, the Jets play a very aggressive run defense, attempting to shoot gaps and penetrate into the backfield, creating big plays and tackles for loss. When it works it’s great, but if you can get your running backs past the penetrating lineman there can be big plays there for the taking in the running game.

5. The Jets are 2.5-point underdogs at home, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. What needs to happen for them to pull off an upset and how do you see the game playing out?

For the Jets to pull off the upset Zach Wilson must not implode as he’s done in the past against the Patriots. At a minimum he has to play relatively mistake free football and not constantly turn the ball over. Part of that includes the offensive line doing a lot better job protecting Wilson. Likewise, the Jets’ defense has to generate some big plays, maybe a turnover or two. Finally, the Jets running game has to keep the chains moving so as to avoid constantly having to punt deep in Jets territory. Do those three things and the Jets should win, but of course that’s much easier said than done against a Patriots team that hasn’t lost to the Jets since 2015.

I wish I could say I expect a Jets victory on Sunday, but I don’t. Until he proves otherwise on the field, Zach Wilson is a major liability, especially against a Bill Belichick defense. It’s difficult to overcome a major liability at the quarterback position. Not impossible, and the Jets running game and defense could combine to pull the game out, but very difficult. Unless and until Wilson shows more, I think you have to favor the Patriots.

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