New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson completed his drop-back, set his feet and fired a pass to wide receiver Elijah Moore, who caught the ball in stride and took off down the field Saturday afternoon.
There was no defensive back covering Moore. No pass rusher trying to chase down Wilson. This was simply a drill on Day 2 of Jets rookie minicamp. But it was meaningful because it represents a budding partnership that the Jets are hoping will change their offensive identity.
Building a strong relationship with his new teammates, and especially his fellow offensive weapons, is something that Wilson is focused on, and not just on the field. That’s why the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft has made it a point to reach out to several of his new teammates, including Moore, who he has talked to nearly every day in the week-plus since the draft.
“I just feel like that connection with your guys is super-important,” Wilson said Saturday before practice. “There’s still more guys I want to reach out to because it’s a lot of new faces in the building. … Really, it’s just because that’s where that connection starts as far as making sure we get on the same page, we become friends, we start to get to know each other. It starts all there. And I’ve got to get to some of the veteran guys, guys that are already on the team.”
Wilson said he’s already talked to receivers Corey Davis and Denzel Mims and tight end Chris Herndon.
Fourth-round draft pick Michael Carter and first-round quarterback Zach Wilson take part in the New York Jets rookie minicamp.
“They actually all reached out to me, which is really cool,” Wilson said. “It shows they want to win and they want to do everything they can. … And I’ve even talked to some of the other guys, Quinnen Williams, everything from the punter to the O-lineman, and it has been exciting to get to know all these guys by name and start to find those similarities we have.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have talked consistently about bringing in players who are talented. But they’ve both made it clear that character and team-building are hugely important when they evaluate what a player adds to their roster. So Saleh obviously had a handle on what kind of person Wilson was before the Jets selected him and what he’s seen so far is just confirmation of that.
“You guys hear me and Joe, obviously, talk about it,” Saleh said. “We want guys who absolutely love football, and he’s a guy who loves football. When you love football, and not just talking about Zach but the entire free agency class, the entire draft class, these guys really love football. So when you have a love for football, you’re going to do everything you can to help yourself, not only get better at it, but you’re going to do everything you can to protect it, which means your off-the-field stuff is going to be right. So it’s this entire group. And to have Zach, your quarterback, have that mindset where he’s always trying to find a way to get better, but it’s something that you want to see from every one of your guys.”
Wilson’s relationship with the entire team will help define his time with the Jets, as he will begin his career with a meaningful leadership role that will only grow with experience. But his relationship with the two offensive weapons who were drafted after him is going to be particularly interesting to watch.
Wilson has already spent time watching highlights of both. And that’s something he’s talked to them about in their conversations leading up to their first practices together.
“We’ve been in contact like almost every day, despite the fact that we’re both very busy learning the playbook and trying to get acclimated,” Moore said. He’s someone that wasted no time. As soon as he knew that they got me, I started watching his highlights, he started watching mine and just trying to see what I’ve got and what he’s got. I’m going to do whatever I can to make him look good and vice versa.”
Moore added that he sees Wilson’s leadership mentality as that of a “general.” And Carter, who has also had extensive conversations with Wilson, had a similar experience. And less than a week after he was drafted by the Jets, Carter is already sold on the leadership ability of his new quarterback.
“The more I’ve talked to him, I can see why people would say that [he’s a good leader] just because of his energy,” Carter said of Wilson. “He’s very positive. He’s not afraid to speak up. … People want to follow people that are genuine and know that they want the best for them. So I can already tell just off that bat that he wants the best for the people around him and he wants the best for the team.”