Jets must protect Zach Wilson, start Joe Flacco Week 1

Don’t do it.

Don’t rush him.

Be smart.

Play Joe Flacco.

Give Zach Wilson another week.

Wilson, the Jets second-year quarterback who suffered a meniscus tear and a bone bruise in his right knee in the preseason opener against the Eagles on Aug. 12 in Philadelphia, understandably wants to return to the field sooner rather than later.

Wilson, who missed four games in his rookie season with a knee injury, burns to start Sunday’s season opener against the Ravens at MetLife Stadium and put his injury history in the rearview mirror.

On Monday, Jets head coach Robert Saleh revealed that Wilson worked out early in the day and said “it’s possible” he’ll start Sunday — pending how his knee recovers Tuesday. Saleh said he’ll announce who’ll start against the Ravens on Wednesday before the team’s first practice of the week.

For the sake of Wilson, Saleh should announce Flacco will start against his former team, leaving Wilson with one more week to strengthen his left knee and take in more practices before returning.

Joe Flacco throws at Jets practice.
Joe Flacco throws at Jets practice.
Noah K. Murray – NY Post

Saleh needs to protect Wilson from himself and his own eagerness.

The Jets should put more stock into the bigger picture than simply this Sunday.

One more week and then unleash the kid to let it rip.

The last thing the Jets need is to rush Wilson back onto the field before he’s fully ready physically and after he’s missed three critical weeks of practice (13 practices in all) and the final two preseason games.

Start Flacco this week and let Wilson begin his 2022 season the following week against the Browns in Cleveland.

Flacco is fully capable of running the offense and, with the Jets a 7-point underdog at home, Flacco going up against the team for whom he played from 2008-18 for the first time in his career might add a little bit of juice to the Jets.

Listening to Saleh speak on Monday left you with the impression that he wants Wilson in there as soon as possible and that he doesn’t plan on a tiptoe back to action.

“Eventually he’s got to get back in there whether it’s this week, next week, the week after, it doesn’t matter,” Saleh said. “You just have to rip the Band-Aid off when he’s ready to play. When he’s healthy and he feels good, he’s going to play football.”

Zach Wilson
The Jets must see the big picture with Zach Wilson.
PA

Wilson, who had arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Aug. 16 and hasn’t suited up for a practice since, was expected to miss 2-4 weeks at the time of the injury. Tuesday marks three weeks.

The second-overall pick in last year’s draft played only nine snaps in his one preseason game, throwing a poor interception and injuring his knee on a scramble trying to gain extra yards instead of safely running out of bounds.

The Jets starting Wilson on Sunday would be akin to Wilson trying for those extra yards in Philadelphia instead of taking the safe way out and running out of bounds. The Jets should take the safe route here, play the long game.

Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh
Noah K. Murray – NY Post

The 37-year-old Flacco had a strong training camp. Wilson can wait another week to get stronger physically and get critical practice reps.

“Joe has a lot more experience, with Zach being in his second year in the league, but Zach is a special player,” Jets guard Laken Tomlinson said Monday. “The way he handles himself operating this offence, we’re really impressed with his work.”

Saleh said the team “put Zach through a workout” (which was closed to reporters) on Monday, including some running and throwing.

“[He] looked good, felt good,” Saleh said. “We’re going to see how the knee responds today and [Tuesday] and we’ll have an answer for everybody on Wednesday.”

For the sake of everyone involved — most notably Wilson — that answer will be Flacco starting on Sunday.

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