Will the Jets bench Zach Wilson? Exploring QB options, depth chart & backup behind embattled starter

The Jets entered the 2023 NFL season anticipating that they would not be trusting Zach Wilson as their starter. Aaron Rodgers was supposed to take over for the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and provide the team with an upgrade at the quarterback position.

Instead, Rodgers got hurt four snaps into his Jets debut. That forced Wilson into action, and he has struggled to show any improvement in relief of the veteran quarterback.

Wilson has made two starts during the 2023 NFL season and the Jets have totaled 10 points in each of them. Granted, he has played against the Cowboys and Patriots, who boast strong defensive units, but he still hasn’t done much to instill confidence in his abilities.

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Against the Patriots, he was particularly lackluster. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but he completed just 18 of 36 passes for 157 yards. He led just one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter but he largely struggled to move the ball.

More than anything else, Wilson has shown little awareness while playing within the pocket. That reared its head on two notable occasions against the Patriots.

The first came when Wilson took a sack that resulted in a safety on the Jets’ penultimate drive of the contest. The safety wasn’t entirely his fault — the blocking in front of him certainly wasn’t good — but he needed to get the ball out of his hands quicker given that he had a couple of checkdowns open.

On the following drive, Wilson and the Jets were facing a do-or-die fourth-and-10. Rather than try to push the ball downfield, he settled for a one-yard checkdown to the tight end. That ended the game.

Wilson’s poor performance has NFL fans everywhere wondering whether he will last as the team’s starting quarterback. After all, he was benched last year in favor of Joe Flacco. Couldn’t the Jets pull a similar move to spark the team in 2023?

Here’s what to know about Zach Wilson’s status and what Robert Saleh has said about the Jets’ quarterback conundrum.

Will the Jets bench Zach Wilson?

Jets coach Robert Saleh was asked whether he would consider making a change at quarterback after New York’s 15-10 loss to the Patriots in Week 3. At that time, he gave Wilson a vote of confidence.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Saleh said of Wilson.

The reason that Wilson is remaining the starter is simple, in Saleh’s opinion.

“Right now, Zach is the best player — he’s who gives us the best chance to win,” he said. “Basically, that’s the cleanest answer I can give.”

Asked again Monday, Saleh confirmed to reporters that Wilson will remain the starter for a daunting Week 4 “Sunday Night Football” matchup against the Chiefs. 

When looking at the Jets’ quarterback depth chart beyond Wilson, it’s easy to understand why Saleh would stay the course. 

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Who is the Jets backup QB?

Tim Boyle is the Jets’ backup quarterback. The 28-year-old veteran signed with the Jets during the 2023 NFL offseason after spending the 2022 season with the Lions and Bears.

Boyle came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and spent three years serving in a reserve role behind Aaron Rodgers. He attempted just four passes with the Packers and eventually bounced around to Detroit (2021-22) and Chicago (2022) before landing with the Jets.

Boyle has made three career starts, all of which came with the Lions in 2021. He posted an 0-3 record and completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 526 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in those games.

So, Boyle doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence for Jets fans, especially when considering his college stats at UConn and Eastern Kentucky. He threw just one touchdown compared to 13 interceptions in three years with the Huskies before throwing for 11 touchdowns and 13 picks in his lone year as a starter with the Colonels.

Jets QB depth chart

With Aaron Rodgers out, this is what the Jets’ quarterback depth chart looks like:

Rank Player
1 Zach Wilson
2 Tim Boyle

Yes, New York is only two-deep at quarterback at present. Coach Robert Saleh told reporters ahead of Week 3 that the team was not planning to add another quarterback to the roster, so it remains to be seen exactly when — or if — the Jets will sign some depth at the position.

Asked again about that possibility Monday, Saleh deferred to general manager Joe Douglas. 

It’s understandable that the Jets might want to let Wilson play to see if he has improved at all under Aaron Rodgers’ tutelage. After all, they have a critical decision to make about Wilson’s future with the team and whether he will, eventually, be the successor to Rodgers.

At the same time, it has to be discouraging for a team that opened the 2023 NFL season with Super Bowl aspirations to see Wilson struggle so badly. And that’s especially true considering that Wilson’s mistakes are repeats of the ones that he has made often during the first two years of his NFL career.

MORE: Jets land defensive star in 2021 NFL Draft do-over

Best free agent QBs NFL 2023

As one would expect, there aren’t many high-quality free agents still available at the quarterback position. Carson Wentz probably stands out among the crowd as the best option — he was once a top MVP candidate — but he has struggled in his last three seasons with the Eagles, Colts and Commanders.

Below are some of the other top free-agent quarterbacks the Jets could target if they want to bring in some competition for Wilson and Boyle:

  • Matt Ryan
  • Colt McCoy
  • Joe Flacco
  • Josh Johnson
  • Nick Foles

It is worth noting that Wentz and Ryan have reportedly reached out to the Jets about joining them for the rest of the season. Saleh chose not to acknowledge those reports after the game, but it would appear that those veterans are options for New York if the front office has a change of heart.

For those wondering whether Tom Brady could join the Jets, he has ruled out that possibility.

And for those hoping that the Jets may be able to trade for a quarterback, you can click here for a look at some of their top options in addition to the free-agent quarterbacks that remain available.

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