The first start of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson‘s professional career was a tale of two halves.
Wilson was pressured relentlessly in the first half and went 6-of-16 for 84 yards and an interception as the Jets fell behind 16-0. He was 14-of-21 for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the Jets pulled within 19-14 before the Panthers put the game away.
The pressure never stopped and Wilson wound up getting sacked six times and hit 10 times before the day was out. After the game, head coach Robert Saleh credited his quarterback for continuing to play despite the work of the Panthers defense.
“He showed the same thing he showed on college tape,” Saleh said, via the team’s website. “He’s been hit before, he took the shots today, got back up and showed resolve. He’s fearless and only going to get better. His numbers could have been better, but there were so many missed opportunities. But he just let it rip. On the interception, he didn’t put enough zip on it and he tossed up a couple of lollipops. But there were a lot of great things for him to learn on.”
Wilson earned some praise from the Panthers as well. Linebacker Shaq Thompson said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, the rookie’s “probably going to be scary” down the line and head coach Matt Rhule said he “saw the special things” that made Wilson a high pick. They weren’t enough to get the win in Carolina, but the second half provided some hope of better days to come.