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Zach Wilson needs to show progress Jets coaches laud him for

The Jets insist Zach Wilson is getting better every day.

Head coach Robert Saleh said so on Wednesday and his offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur echoed it on Thursday.

“He did a better job in a lot of facets of that game — he made better decisions,’’ LaFleur said of the rookie quarterback’s performance in the team’s 26-0 loss last Sunday at Denver.

“He has been improving, even though people haven’t seen the improvement,” Saleh said. “Now he’s just gotta go show the world. Eventually, it’s going to pop.”

Wilson and the Jets, who badly need something to “pop’’ Sunday when they host the Titans at MetLife Stadium, knew this wasn’t going to be easy. It almost never is for rookie starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Wilson’s fellow 2021 quarterback first-round picks have all scuffled through the first three weeks.

Trevor Lawrence, who was drafted one pick before Wilson at No. 1 overall, went into his game Thursday against the Bengals with an 0-3 record for the Jaguars. He is completing just 54.2 percent of his passes and is tied with Wilson with seven interceptions. The Patriots’ Mac Jones is coming off a dismal three-pick performance in a home loss to the Saints. Justin Fields, in his first start with the Bears, threw for 1 net yard last week and was sacked nine times.

So, Wilson knew this wasn’t going to be easy. But two offensive touchdowns in three games? No touchdowns in the last eight quarters? Three first-half points in three games? Seven interceptions and a league-high 15 sacks?

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) at practice
The start of Zach Wilson’s Jets career has been tough, even if his coaches rave about his progress.
Bill Kostroun

Wilson probably didn’t think it was going to be that rough.

Jets fans, starved for any morsel of positivity, surely hoped for more than what they’ve seen through three games, which is not a lot.

The fans’ barometer for this season always was going to be about the rookie quarterback making progress. If the Jets were losing games 34-27 or 28-24 and Wilson were slinging the ball around making some big plays to go along with the expected rookie mistakes, that would be enough to satisfy the fans for 2021.

But on paper, Wilson looks to have regressed, not progressed, since Week 1.

He was 20 of 37 for 258 yards with two touchdowns, one pick and an encouraging second-half performance in his debut at Carolina.

Next came 19 of 33 for 210 yards with four interceptions, two on his first two attempts of the game, in a dismal 25-6 home-opening loss to the Patriots, during which he was booed.

Then came Sunday at Denver. He looked anemic, completing 19 of 35 for 160 yards and two late picks while trying to rally the Jets.

Saleh and LaFleur insist the numbers are a lie, that Wilson is getting better.

If that is true, Wilson is in desperate need of some positive reinforcement so he can display the progress the coaches believe he is making on a Sunday, not on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

You may recall this same coaching staff speaking highly about how well second-year receiver Denzel Mims has been practicing in recent weeks, yet on game days, Mims has remained a figure on the side of a milk carton, mysteriously missing from the active roster.

Credibility is becoming a factor here.

Psychologically, Wilson needs to see some positive results, and so do Jets fans. He doesn’t need to “show the world,’’ as Saleh said, as much as he needs to show himself.

“He’s such a mentally tough kid,’’ LaFleur said. “It goes back to him just living in the moment, going play-by-play. Yeah, everyone wants to see results, no matter what you’re doing. You want to have the results Monday through Saturday and then show the world on Sunday.

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson speaks to the media
Zach Wilson needs to instill some confidence with his play.
Bill Kostroun

“I challenged the coaches, I challenged myself, how can we make it easier?’’ LaFleur said of helping Wilson and the offense execute better. “How can [we] say it in a way that guys can understand it better? We’ve got to get that fixed.’’

Saleh, LaFleur and Wilson are not going to get everything fixed by the 1 p.m. kickoff on Sunday, and that’s understandable. But tangible progress must be shown on the part of the rookie quarterback to make everyone — perhaps most of all himself — believe that this is going to work.

“Mentally, I feel good,’’ Wilson said on Wednesday. “I feel confident.”

Now he needs to instill that confidence among those clad in the freshly minted No. 2 green jerseys who are paying the freight to watch him play. Then everyone can chill out and let the process continue.

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