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NFL Draft

Is The Zach Wilson – Josh Allen Comparison Valid?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 13, 2021
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Don’t look now, but the New York Jets have played two quality football games in back-to-back weeks. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was terrific in New York’s Week 4 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans and nearly led an unlikely second-half comeback against the Atlanta Falcons across the pond in Sunday morning's matinee. Over those two contests, Wilson completed 40-of-66 of his passing attempts for 489 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Jets scored an average of 23.5 points per game in Week 4 and 5, a significant improvement on the embarrassing six points per contest they scored through the opening three weeks of the season.

In the world of football analysis, we often discuss regression to the mean, but don’t often enough consider the likelihood of ascension to the mean. On the latter, there is no better modern-day example than Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who is largely considered an MVP candidate through the first five weeks of the new campaign. Allen, like Wilson is doing now, struggled mightily as a young signal-caller. In a 12-game sample size as a rookie, Allen completed a mere 52.81% of his passes while throwing more interceptions than touchdowns (10:12). Allen was marginally better as a sophomore in 2019 before developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the league a year ago, an unforeseen improvement that remains in place today.

For Jets head coach Robert Saleh, the similarities between his young quarterback and Allen are of note, and worth analyzing in finer detail.

“It’s not easy being a rookie quarterback,” Saleh said. “The first five games of Josh Allen’s rookie year, the numbers were the same as what our guy [Wilson] is going through. I know it can be frustrating, but it’s going to start clicking. It’s a rollercoaster ride and you have to take the good with the good, and the bad with the bad.”

Saleh raises a fair point. It’s undoubtedly seen through green-tinted glasses, but the numbers are what they are. Through five games, Wilson has thrown for more touchdowns than Allen did (four as opposed to two), is completing roughly 2% more of his passes (57.3% versus 55.7%), and is averaging 223.4 throwing yards per contest as opposed to Allen’s measly 151.6. It’s worth recording that Wilson has struggled with turnovers more than Allen did, committing 11 of them (nine interceptions and two fumbles) versus Allen’s nine total turnovers (five interceptions and four fumbles).

Wilson, like Allen often does, has flashed a special ability to create off-script due to his arm talent and propensity to work outside of the pocket. It’s partially what made Allen and Wilson such appealing prospects coming out of Wyoming and BYU respectively.

From here on out, every franchise in the league that employs a struggling rookie quarterback is going to turn to the rare example that is Allen. Wilson will unquestionably get better with time, as most first-year players do. In New York, they’ll continue to hope for an Allen-esque soar from Wilson, even if history suggests that an improvement that grand is unlikely.

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