Don’t turn off that Jags-Jets game this Sunday by default. Yes, watching that matchup may be causing the waves of nausea you’re feeling, but you also may have just eaten too many candy canes on Christmas Day, so wait it out for a quarter at least. Hear me out.
The top two picks in the 2021 draft, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson, will meet up in a battle of the rookie quarterbacks at noon the day after Christmas. As you probably know well, they’re at the respective helms of two of the worst teams in the league, the 2-12 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 3-11 New York Jets. So while the televised product may not exactly be great, this should be an interesting case study in what the futures of the QBs could look like compared to one another.
This is only the fourth time since 1967 that quarterbacks drafted first and second overall will face each other during their first year in the league. Both have pretty consistently seen the bottom half of our weekly rookie rankings, but that’s how it goes with talented rookie QBs on “mid-rebuild” teams (and to be fair to Trevor, rebuilding is a lot harder with Urban Meyer leading the charge). With arguably nothing to lose, and against an equally bad opponent, we might begin to see glimmers of what Lawrence and Wilson could possibly look like.
We also may not, as their own offenses aren’t changing, only the defenses they’re playing against. But at least it’ll be evenly matched. Lawrence has struggled with accuracy all season, particularly in 20-plus yard passes (only four of 25 have found his receivers’ hands). He’s looking about as far as one can get from the former “generational quarterback” hype he saw throughout his college years, but I’m not convinced that player is gone — just adjusting. The Jets’ young secondary, along with several other members of the team, will be severely depleted this week due to COVID protocols. This could allow the Jags’ receivers to create some separation and give Lawrence — known for his arm and accuracy throughout college — to regain some confidence and see open targets out on the field after a season defined by interceptions.
Wilson, bouncing back from a knee injury, hasn’t thrown a touchdown in his past two games, so he’s probably due for a few against the Jags. Known for his improvisational style of play, he hasn’t quite been able to fit in with the Jets’ offense (in fact, their highest offensive production happened during Wilson’s knee injury games). The Jets also need to win this game. They’re at home. They don’t have the excuse that they just lost an incredibly toxic head coach, meaning that the true Jacksonville rebuild has not even yet begun. Wilson’s month-long absence demonstrated to the Jets management and fanbase that he is, in fact, replaceable, which may give him the push he needs to fix his short-field passing consistency and continue his zero-interception streak.
So yes, the quality of play will put a bit of a damper on a QB matchup that would have looked fantastic on paper a year ago, but if nothing else, it should still be an interesting game on a day that nothing really happens on. But the reality is, of course, that there will be seven other (probably better) NFL games being broadcast simultaneously, so I don’t blame you if you do change the channel before dozing off into a food coma.