FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The New York Jets were non-committal about a timetable for injured quarterback Zach Wilson, saying it depends on the outcome of arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“We’re optimistic, but he’s not out of the woods until they get in and make the decision.” [on how to handle the meniscus]’ said coach Robert Saleh on Sunday.
Wilson, injured in Friday night’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, is expected to miss two to four weeks with a bone bruise and a torn meniscus in his right knee, sources said Saturday. That projection was based on an MRI. The current belief is that the meniscus only needs a “finish,” not a full repair, a source said.
The team is hopeful it won’t last more than four weeks, but it won’t be an absolute certainty until the scope, which will be performed by knee expert Neal ElAttrache, the team physician for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Dodgers.
ElAttrache will also have a meeting with injured right tackle Mekhi Becton (knee), who is expected to miss the entire season.
While the Jets were relieved to hear that Wilson’s injury is not yet the end of the season, they acknowledged it could hinder his development early in the season. He will miss the last two games of the preseason, plus joint practice sessions against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.
“It’s a setback because he’s missing an incredible opportunity to bring in the reps, to play other defenses, especially the Giants, who have such an extensive pressure pack system,” Saleh said. “He needs to be called, just like last year when he was injured.
“The timing of all this is terrible and it sucks, but I think Zach still has a chance to grow out of it if he mentally attacks it.”
Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021, missed four games as a rookie after spraining the PCL in his right knee — the same knee he injured against the Eagles during a non-contact game in which he scrambled instead of hitting out of bounds.
Backup Joe Flacco, who took first-team reps in training, said Wilson was “a little down” after the game, adding that his mood had brightened on Sunday.
“I think, given what has happened, we got some pretty good news,” said Flacco, who has started just 13 games since being benched in 2018 by the Baltimore Ravens – the Jets’ Week 1 opponent.” I think he’s in a good mood today.”
Realistically, it will likely be Flacco against the Ravens as there will be a boot period for Wilson. Saleh acknowledged that the organization must be careful not to rush him back, calling it a “valid” issue that will be discussed once the surgical procedure is completed.
The quarterback, whether Wilson or Flacco, will be behind a new line of attack. The team responded to Becton’s injury by signing former Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown to a two-year, $22 million contract. There was some doubt about where he would stand, but he will remain a left tackle, Saleh confirmed on Sunday.
Brown, who agreed to the terms on Thursday, is expected to arrive on Sunday evening to sign his contract. He should start practicing this week.
That means George Fant has to move to the right, a potentially awkward situation. The coaches spent the offseason gushing over Fant’s performance at left tackle last season. In fact, they anointed him the 2022 starter at the start of training camp, pushing Becton – a 2020 first round pick – to the right.
Previously, Fant said his preference was to remain a left tackle. He has played better on the left than on the right, Saleh acknowledged. Saleh rationalized the move, saying Fant hasn’t had a real chance to play the right tackle on the Jets’ current schedule (save for two quarters into the 2021 opener). They believe that this scheme, unlike the previous one, will accentuate his skills.
The other factor: Brown has started as a left tackle in all of his 203 games in his career.
“His curse is also a blessing,” Saleh said of Fant, who is seeking a contract extension. “He’s extremely versatile, very athletic. And he’s a teammate. … He just wants a home.”