FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Quarterback Zach Wilson put on a uniform Sunday for the first time in four weeks — as the New York Jets’ backup.
Wilson will replace Joe Flacco as the quarterback in Sunday’s pivotal Game 2 against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium in favor of Mike White on Nov. 23.
Coach Robert Saleh’s decision, announced Wednesday, is significant because White is dealing with a rib injury. He is expected to start the game on Wednesday, although his practice time will be limited, he said. The Jets have not disclosed the exact nature of the injury.
White’s injury, along with Flacco’s ineffective relief in Sunday’s 20-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills, appeared to open the door for Wilson’s elevation, though Saleh called it a “coincidence.”
Wilson, drafted No. 2 in 2021, has spent the past three weeks inactive on weekdays and Sundays according to the scout team. The Jets called the bench a “reset,” saying they want him to play the basics without bothering to prepare for an opponent.
“Zach was doing a great job,” Saleh said. “He’s been intentional with his approach over the last three weeks. He’s been working on how he wants to attack practice, how he’s been doing in practice, holding himself accountable against defenses. He’s been working on different things that we’ve asked him to do.
Saleh has maintained in recent weeks that he would like to play Wilson again before the end of the season, but the window is closing. In all likelihood, the Jets (7-6) will remain white unless they fall out of contention. Saleh said he was taking it every week. White is only 1-2 as a starter, but the offense has averaged 420 yards and 22 points with him at quarterback. He averaged just 287 yards and 21 points against Wilson; He also won five of his seven starts.
“He’s a very talented young man — a very talented young man,” Saleh said of Wilson. “We’re developing guys, and I’ve said it before: This is Mike White’s opportunity, and he’s attacking the opportunity. He’s doing well with it.
“But at the same time, we have to do everything we can to raise Zach to where we know he can get.”
White was hit by the Bills’ pass rush, forcing him out of the game on two occasions. Flacco came off the bench a total of seven times, and it wasn’t pretty. He missed a fumble on a sack and completed just one of three passes for 1 yard.
White, after a medical evaluation that included X-rays, finished the game. He was then taken by ambulance to a Buffalo-area hospital for a precautionary evaluation. He told reporters he felt good enough to start against the Lions on Monday.
“We’re still working on him playing this week,” Saleh said Wednesday.
For the 37-year-old Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP with the Baltimore Ravens, this marks the second time this season has been relegated to the third string. It also happened in October, when the Jets decided to whitewash their QB2 behind Wilson.
It’s been a strange year for Flacco, who started the first three games (1-2), while Wilson has recovered from preseason knee surgery.
Wilson was benched after a 77-yard pass in a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots, a game in which he completed just nine of 22 passes.
He caused a firestorm at the post-game press conference, not taking responsibility for his poor performance. This angered some players, the sources said, and may have been the reason why Salih decided to sit him out. A few days later, Wilson apologized for his comments after the game.
In other injury developments, the Jets are without star defensive tackle Quinn Williams (calf), who did not practice and is still considered 50-50 to play, Saleh said. Wide receiver Corey Davis (concussion) also did not practice, but is “on target” to play Sunday, Saleh said.