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Breaking Down Zach Wilson’s Four Interceptions

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Let’s get this over with so that we can move on.

Interception #1

This is a three man pattern. You have Corey Davis (red) working over the middle of the field. You have Elijah Moore (orange) on the outside and a checkdown option out of the backfield (yellow).

This is a long developing play. It doesn’t last long enough for us to see what the actual plan was, but based on the movements of the players I would guess the design here is to get Davis to draw the attention of the one deep safety and for Moore to run to the vacated area on a post. This could be a big play if you hit it.

But for a play like this to work, you have to block really well. It’s going to take a lot of time for everything to develop.

The Jets do not block this well.

Connor McGovern loses his matchup. (You never want your offensive lineman looking back at the quarterback like this.) The Patriots also blitz a linebacker who doesn’t get picked up.

McGovern at least somehow gets his guy to the ground, but the free runner is bearing down on Wilson.

Wilson makes an awful decision to throw it to a blanketed Davis.

I’d like to see Davis fight back to the ball a little bit harder to try and break up the interception, but there was little chance of this being completed.

This is a high risk, low reward throw.

Understanding game situation is really important. This was second and two. There is no need for a high risk pass here. If you throw it away, your team is still in good shape. It’s third and two, and you have a good chance of converting to extend the drive.

Instead Wilson tried to force it, and disaster struck.

Interception #2

Of the four this is the one I put the least amount of blame on Wilson, but I still think he deserves the majority of it.

This is a basic bootleg, and Wilson has Elijah Moore wide open in the flat.

All he has to do is just flip it to him, and I would guess it’s a six to eight yard gain with the potential for more if Elijah can force a missed tackle or two.

Wilson, however, is focused further down the field on Corey Davis.

Instead of hitting the wide open Moore, Wilson tries the deeper pass to Davis. There is a window, but there also is a lot of traffic in this area.

The topic of whether Davis should have caught this ball has been hotly contested over the last two days. I think there’s a degree of nuance here. This was a catchable ball. It hit him in the hands. I can also appreciate the argument that you should expect the guy who just got a $37.5 million contract to be your number one receiver to make this play.

This wasn’t a routine catch, though. The way some people are talking about it, you’d think he was running a three yard hitch against off coverage, and the pass hit him in the numbers.

To make this catch he had to reach back a bit while flying at full speed through the air.

I think it’s fair to say Davis deserves some of the blame for this interception. I also think there was a bit of bad luck involved. If you play this situation out 100 times, it probably results in an interception far less than half.

Still the decision making by Wilson left something to be desired. There was much discussion about the Jets installing a “Shanahan offense” during the offseason. One of the things this offense is designed to do is offer easy yardage the quarterback doesn’t need to work hard to get.

The Moore option was like stealing. It was the easiest successful play a quarterback could ask for. Wilson had to do no work.

Instead he opted for a much more difficult throw down the field. There are a couple of reasons this was a less than optimal decision.

The first again goes back to game situation. This was a first and ten play. A six yard gain is a successful play. There is no need to be risky here with a guaranteed positive play staring you in the face.

The second is about the risk-reward ratio. This pass to Davis is only 12-13 yards down the field. Even if this pass is completed, you’re not gaining that much more than you would have by dumping it to Moore. If you are going to make a tougher throw, the reward should be commensurate with the risk. It should be like a 25-30 yard game changing play, not a moderate gain.

Bad luck? Yes, but this back luck was the residue of bad decision making.

When I studied Wilson at BYU last year, this was one of the big issues that I saw. He would too frequently pass up the guaranteed successful play for something bigger. There is a time and a place for aggression, but he needs to channel this better and understand the bigger play isn’t always the objective.

Playing quarterback in the NFL is difficult enough. When the defense gives you free yardage, sometimes you just need to accept the gift.

Interception #3

This one seems pretty simple to me. It looks like Wilson predetermines his read and tries to force a pass to Elijah Moore even though he isn’t open.

If you are going to throw this ball, it cannot be underthrown. It either has to be caught by your receiver or sail to the sideline. In this case it would have been sailing to the sideline because there was no window to hit this pass.

Going back a bit, Wilson again doesn’t take what is schemed for him. The design of this play creates an opening. Braxton Berrios is in motion, and the way his route meshes with Moore’s creates a rub.

Ironically the one time he doesn’t throw to Berrios in this game is the one time it actually might have done some good.

This is a third and four play. There is no guarantee Berrios makes it to the sticks, but this at least gives you a shot. The throw Wilson made gives no shot. I have heard people get on Mike LaFleur, but all he can do is scheme these easy throws. He can’t throw them for Wilson.

The score is 10-3 in the second quarter, and the Jets are in field goal range. This again is not the point to make a high risk pass. This throw probably took points off the board.

Some themes have developed. This is the third interception, the third time Wilson tried to force a ball into coverage, and the third time the context of the game situation made this type of super aggression ill-advised.

Interception #4

Your guess is as good as mine on this one. It might as well have been a punt.

The only thing I can even conceive on this play is that maybe Wilson got fooled by New England’s presnap alignment. The Patriots line up showing Cover 3.

After the snap they roll into Cover 2.

Elijah Moore takes his route to the sideline.

Theoretically it’s possible the route could change based on the coverage. Against a Cover 3 the spot where Moore ran would be less than ideal, but one of the defense’s biggest vulnerabilities would be the place where Wilson threw the ball.

You are going to have to use your imagination a bit, but hopefully my illustrations will help you understand where players would be and why a Moore route to that area could exploit a Cover 3.

This is just a guess, though. The play was such a mess that it’s impossible to say exactly what happened.

This interpretation also wouldn’t be that generous for Wilson. This isn’t Bill Belichick outfoxing a rookie. This is pretty basic coverage stuff. He saw this at BYU.

All we can do now is move forward and hope these are mistakes Wilson will quickly learn from rather that the start of a trend.