Things are about to get interesting inside the crowded Jets quarterbacks room.
Head coach Robert Saleh said Friday that he expects Mike White will have recovered from the right forearm injury he suffered Thursday night and will be able to practice this week. He also said rookie Zach Wilson is “trending in the direction” of being able to practice as well after missing two games with a knee injury.
That would set up for a fascinating decision for the Jets organization. White played lights-out against the Bengals in his first start and looked as if he were on his way to another good game before leaving the 45-30 loss to the Colts in the first quarter Thursday. Wilson has struggled for much of his rookie season, but he was taken No. 2 overall in April with the idea he would be the Jets’ franchise quarterback. Would they now shelve those plans?
Saleh did not reveal much on Friday, saying he first needs to see how healthy both quarterbacks are before the debate begins about who to start on Nov. 14 against the Bills.
Saleh was asked if the decision would simply be based on which quarterback gives them the best chance to win against Buffalo or if it is more complicated than that, because Wilson’s development has been a top priority since the team drafted him.
“We’re going to talk about all that stuff,” Saleh said. “The quarterback, obviously, is always at the forefront of our mind, but this is a very young offense that’s also trying to be developed. We’ll see through practice and through reps. I’m not saying that there’s a competition, because it’s still a hypothetical what you’re giving me, because there’s still two guys that aren’t close to being nearly, fully 100 percent. So, we’ll see how practice goes as we get closer to it.”
A White versus Wilson debate would be the first in-season quarterback question the Jets have had since 2016, when an ineffective Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched, first for Geno Smith and then for Bryce Petty. There have been a few training camp quarterback competitions since then, but no real in-season drama in the past five years outside of some mild suggestions that Sam Darnold should be benched when he was a rookie.
White has made this a conversation by throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Bengals. On Thursday, he lasted two series before leaving the game because his fingers went numb and he could no longer grip the ball. He went 7-for-11 for 95 yards and a touchdown. He felt the injury right after throwing the touchdown pass to Elijah Moore.
“He got hit in the perfect spot,” Saleh said. “From my understanding it was a nerve contusion, so the nerve just went dead on him. He couldn’t grab the ball. Thankfully, it just wasn’t until the end of the game, towards the end of the game. By then, Josh [Johnson] had been rolling and it wasn’t worth making that change. It wasn’t until darn near the fourth quarter that he could finally grip the ball and feel it. Now it’s just a matter of just the contusion and the swelling going down and getting his arm strength back.”
The Jets will benefit from having the extra days following a Thursday game, but this week could have some drama. Will the Jets split first-team reps between Wilson and White? Will they give White another shot? Will they tell Wilson to take another week off to rest his knee?
“The thing with Zach coming back and obviously with Mike getting injured [Thursday] is just getting them both back out on that practice field,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “It’s trending that they’re both going to be out there. Obviously, the results show on Sunday and that’s what everyone sees, but what I’m looking forward to most is getting them both back out there on the field on Wednesday to keep getting better. This whole thing is a process, like we told you.
“We want wins as much as anyone right now, but what I keep preaching to the offense is just keep on trying to get better every single day. This is a process. The results will come. Just keep on grinding.”