All eyes on Zach Wilson’s progress in 2nd year as Jets open camp

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FILE – New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) participates in drills at the NFL Football Team’s training facility, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Florham Park, NJ The quarterback rookie Zach Wilson struggled early last season, then missed four games with a knee injury. But the No. 2 overall pick has bounced back late throwing no interceptions in his last five games, giving the organization some optimism about the QB’s potential for this season. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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NEW YORK JETS (4-13)

CAMPING: Florham Park, New Jersey

LAST YEAR: Robert Saleh’s first season as Jets coach was tough, with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson struggling early on and then missing four games with a knee injury. But the No. 2 overall pick has bounced back late throwing no interceptions in his last five games, giving the organization some optimism about the QB’s potential for this season. Perhaps the biggest highlight came when backup QB Mike White made his first NFL start in place of Wilson and beat eventual champion AFC Cincinnati 34-31 on Halloween while shooting 37 on 45 for 405 yards and three touchdowns and catching a 2-point conversion pass. New York’s defense has struggled mightily throughout the season, ranking last or among the worst in several key statistical categories.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: First round picks CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson and DE Jermaine Johnson, second round picks RB Breece Hall, G Laken Tomlinson, TE CJ Uzomah, TE Tyler Conklin, CB DJ Reed, S Jordan Whitehead, DE Jacob Martin, DT Solomon Thomas and K Greg Zuerlein.

MAJOR LOSSES: S Marcus Maye, WR Jamison Crowder, LB Jarrad Davis, DL Folorunso Fatukasi and OT Morgan Moses.

CAMP NEEDS: All eyes will be on Zach Wilson to show tangible signs of progress over the summer to give the Jets confidence he will look more like the QB who was solid in the second half last season than one who tread water as a wide-eyed rookie early on. Wilson now has a few more playmakers in Uzomah, Conklin, Garrett Wilson and Hall, so that should help. The secondary, restructured offensive line will need the summer to gel into units.

KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: George Fant and Mekhi Becton will compete for the starting position at left tackle – with the loser expected to switch to the right side. It was Becton’s gig at the start of last season, but he dislocated his right kneecap and sprained the MCL in the opener and missed the rest of the year. Fant slipped in place of Becton and was one of the team’s few bright spots. Becton, who skipped all voluntary off-season training to be with his girlfriend who had the couple’s first child, should be healthy to start camp. While Reed, one of the Jets’ top free agent recruits, will start at a cornerback position, Gardner and Bryce Hall, the incumbent starter, will compete for the other. Saleh said in the spring that Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick, will have to take Hall’s job. Other key competitions will be at kicker (Zuerlein vs. Eddy Pineiro) and safety (Lamarcus Joyner, Ashtyn Davis and Jason Pinnock).

EXPECTATIONS: The Jets, who haven’t made the playoffs in the NFL’s 11-worst seasons, are happy with their chances of at least making the playoffs this year due to additions on offense and defense via free agency and the draft. Of course, a lot will hinge on whether Wilson actually takes the big steps towards becoming a franchise-type quarterback. The schedule, however, is daunting: the first four games are against AFC North, followed by a home game against rival AFC East Miami, road games in Green Bay and Denver, and games home division against New England and Buffalo before the bye-week break.

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