Sports

Zach Wilson shocks NFL world

The Jets had a bold offseason.

Hire a defensive-minded coach in an offensive era. Swap franchise quarterbacks. Assemble the NFL’s youngest roster.

So, in keeping with the theme, here are The Post’s five bold predictions for the Jets in 2021:

1. Zach Wilson wins Offensive Rookie of the Year.

It’s much easier for a running back or a receiver to make an immediate impact, but, like MVP, voters tend to favor quarterbacks. Kyler Murray (Cardinals) and Justin Herbert (Chargers) are the last two winners – among six quarterback winners since 2010 – and neither needed more than six wins to make it happen.

After the Jets fielded the NFL’s worst offense in back-to-back years, Wilson will make a splash by providing a lift to mediocrity. But his style – the off-script, sometimes-dangerous throw – leads to the social-media-friendly highlights that help generate award buzz. Becoming the first Jet since Joe Namath in 1967 to throw for 4,000 yards will help his campaign.

Zach Wilson during the Jets’ preseason game against the Packers.
Getty Images

2. Elijah Moore is the most productive Jets rookie receiver ever.     

Wayne Chrebet (66) holds the Jets rookie record for receptions. Keyshawn Johnson (844) holds the rookie record for receiving yards. Both numbers will fall to Moore, who didn’t play in the preseason because of injury, giving the Jets the unplanned advantage of opponents guessing where he will line up and how he will be used.

Corey Davis signed the $37.5 million free-agent contract to make big plays and score touchdowns, but Moore has the route-running savvy and soft hands to be a rookie quarterback’s best friend.

3. Jets surpass last year’s win total … in Week 5.

The Jets went 2-14 last season, so the third win will mark progress whenever it comes. But three wins before the Week 6 bye? A winning record after facing the Panthers, Patriots, Broncos, Titans and Falcons?

The fan base will be buzzing headed to New England on extra rest.  

Elijah Moore speaks with the media at Jets training camp.
Elijah Moore speaks with the media at Jets training camp.
Getty Images

4. Jets rank last in the NFL in passing defense.

Yikes. Not what you expect from a Robert Saleh-coached defense. Not when you think about his association with the “Legion of Boom.”

But the Jets took a huge gamble by not signing a veteran free-agent cornerback. Then doubled down by cutting returning starter Bless Austin to go with six first- and second-year cornerbacks, none of whom are higher than fifth-round draft picks.

Playing young players is fine if there is a long-term commitment to development. If they are going to get toasted, impatiently benched and ultimately replaced next year, then this is a foolish strategy.

5. Quinnen Williams becomes a 10-sack star set up for a huge payday.

Defensive end Carl Lawson’s torn Achilles had a double-whammy effect: It robbed the Jets of a chance to see what Lawson could do after a remarkably dominant training camp, and it redirected the attention of blocking schemes back to Williams.  

Williams tallied four sacks in his final five games of last season (without Lawson) before winding up on injured reserve. Recovery from foot surgery delayed his start to training camp, but that’s OK. Less wear-and-tear on a big body.

The 49ers, with Saleh running the defense, considered drafting Williams over Nick Bosa in 2019, and it’s easy to compare Williams to DeForest Buckner, who had 12 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl as a third-year player under Saleh. Williams is eligible for a contract extension for the first time after this season, and top defensive tackles command about $20 million per year.

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