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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

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Zach Wilson of the New York Jets looks on before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Zach Wilson (2) of the New York Jets looks on before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/TNS)

In Zach Wilson’s return off a knee injury, the No. 2 overall pick struggled. Wilson threw for under 150 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception.

But the coaching staff stepped up and Wilson allowed him to manage the game as the Jets snagged their first road win of the season over the Texans in Week 12.

While there was some disappointment from the fan base on Wilson’s outing, Robert Saleh was pleased with the performance of his rookie.

“Was it his best game? No. Did he do a lot of things? Did he get comfortable as the game went on? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “He orchestrated two 13-play drives that led the scores where we were able to lap them. Scored before the half, scored after the half and another eight-plus-play drive. So, he orchestrated three pretty long drives and did enough to win the football game and that’s what’s most important.”

Wilson wasn’t happy with his performance, but Saleh looked at those emotions as a positive because of his quarterback eagerness to improve.

“I love that he’s hard on himself,” Saleh said. “His desire to get better is up there with anybody. I mean, he works his tail off at it.”

Saleh added that when Wilson struggles, it isn’t all on the rookie.

“But at the same time, coaches also, we’re hard on ourselves, too. It’s our job to help him get better and do everything we can for him,” Saleh said.

And to the coaching staff’s credit, they helped Wilson in the second half. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur realized the flow of the game and took the pressure off of Wilson.

In the first half, the Jets were more balanced as they ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards and Wilson threw it 12 times as he completed six passes for 44 yards with an interception.

LaFleur realized his quarterback was struggling and his running attack was working and leaned on the run game.

They ran the ball 23 times for 108 yards in the second half. That alleviated pressure off Wilson. His first pass out of the half was a play action throw to Elijah Moore for 22 yards. Moore was wide open on his deep curl route because the linebackers bit on the fake.

That running attack allowed Wilson to manage the half as he went 8-for-12 for 101 yards in the second half.

“The run game, defense, special teams, that’s what travels. And especially in this time of year, in cold weather, when people are hurting,” Saleh said. “And so, the offense to run the ball the way it did yesterday, the o-line was moving people, there was space, the backs were finding the creases, they were hitting it hard, they were breaking tackles, they were awesome all the way across the board. And so, yeah, whenever you get the run game going, it takes pressure off of everybody.”

And Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s gameplan shut down the Texans offense as they mustered 202 yards, and held them to 45 yards in the second half.

Gang Green defense shut down the Texans’ rushing attack by holding them to 96 yards. And on passing downs, they exploited the weak offensive line with a four man rush, the style Saleh wants to play.

They sent four on 71% of Texans QB Taylor’s dropbacks and he went 11-for-19 for 112 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Taylor had a passer rating of 70 and was sacked three times.

While Wilson worked off the rust, the parts around him showed up.

INJURY REPORT

Mike White tested positive for COVID last week and missed the game against the Texans. He’s still in the protocol and isn’t expected to be available against the Eagles.

Joe Flacco was placed on the COVID list because he was deemed a close contact. Flacco didn’t test positive but he missed the Texans game. He was activated on Monday.

Denzel Mims was inactive against the Texans as he worked back from COVID. Saleh says he will practice on Wednesday.

Mekhi Becton has been out because of a knee injury he suffered Week 1 against the Panthers. Becton is on track to do field work as he works his way back to practice.

Tight end Trevon Wesco suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and is out two to four weeks.

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