Can Jets QB Zach Wilson keep building against Tom Brady, Todd Bowles' Tampa defense?

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  • Zach Wilson
    Zach Wilson
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  • Tom Brady
    Tom Brady
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Tom Brady was getting ready for his senior season at Michigan when Zach Wilson was born.

On Sunday, the quarterbacks will face off for the first time with the league's all-time passing leader against a man half his age.

Wilson and the Jets (4-11) will welcome the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to MetLife Stadium in the penultimate game of the regular season. With the Jets well out of playoff contention, the spotlight will be on the development of the rookie class led by Wilson.

While the 22-year-old doesn't have much in common with his Hall of Fame opponent, there is one thing that ties him to Brady.

"Same August birthday," said Wilson, who was born on the third. "I always thought that was kind of cool."

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeat the Jaguars, 26-21, on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeat the Jaguars, 26-21, on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford.

Wilson was cool under pressure last Sunday when he threw for 102 yards and a touchdown, leading the Jets past the last-place Jaguars. It's another encouraging step for Wilson, who's shown more discipline in five games since returning from a knee injury. In that time, he's accounted for seven touchdowns (three passing, four rushing) to only two interceptions.

The Jets rookie hasn't been picked in three straight games either, after throwing nine in six games to start his professional career.

Coach Robert Saleh also praised Wilson for using his legs to out-duel No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars last Sunday. It's an area of his game that the coaching staff has been trying to unleash.

"He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there," Saleh said earlier this week. "He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow."

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Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has urged his QB to take the free yards when they present themself. When Wilson bypassed a running lane during a recent loss to New Orleans, LaFleur reminded him that he's a "better athlete than you’re giving yourself credit for".

Wilson, after all, proved to be adept runner last year at BYU when he rushed for 10 touchdowns in 12 games. It's taken a while to translate in the NFL, but last Sunday could be a turning point.

Wilson scrambled for 91 yards, including a tone-setting 52-yard score, the longest touchdown run ever by a Jets quarterback.

"I mean shoot, he finally pump-faked a defender and ran around him for a big chunk of yards to just show the natural playmaking ability," Saleh said. "He finally looked a little bit loose [Sunday] in terms of running with a purpose, not running just to run."

Teammates have noticed that a better grasp on the field has come with a more vocal role off it.

"You see a guy that's getting better every week," offensive tackle Morgan Moses said. "The thing that I'm starting to learn about him is as he's getting comfortable, he's learning how to demand greatness out of everybody around him."

The Jets QB explained that it's his way of showing teammates his passion for the game, as well as an urgency to get things done.

"When they know I'm giving it my all, I know they'll do the same thing for me, which is really cool," Wilson added.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) on his way to a 52-yard touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) on his way to a 52-yard touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford.

Wilson said he is inspired by Brady's longevity and likes to study the Bucs film whenever the Jets play a mutual opponent. But to beat Brady, he'll ultimately have to beat a Tampa Bay defense run by former Jets coach Todd Bowles. The aggressive Bucs' defense enters the week ranked ninth in points allowed and 10th in yards per game.

"I'm sure they're going to bring pressure and do different things to try to confuse us," Wilson said. "I think it will be a good challenge for me. I feel like I'm prepared and I feel like we have a good scheme going into it."

Roster update

On Thursday, the Jets activated four players off the COVID list and all are starters: left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, defensive end John Franklin-Myers and safety Ashtyn Davis.

Sean Farrell is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.

Email: farrells@northjersey.com

Twitter: @seanfarrell92

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NY Jets' Zach Wilson gets first test against Tom Brady, Bucs defense

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