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Zach Wilson’s return is imminent, but can the Jets decimated O-line protect him?

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Jets quarterback Zach Wilson sits on the bench during practice before a preseason game against the New York Giants.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson sits on the bench during practice before a preseason game against the New York Giants.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

All indications are pointing towards Jets quarterback Zach Wilson returning to action on Sunday for their Week 4 matchup against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which is good news for Gang Green’s struggling offense — but will that really solve their problems? And can they keep the 23-year-old upright?

Wilson suffered a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his right leg in preseason on Aug. 12 during the opening half of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and underwent successful surgery on Aug. 16. 

After initially believing he could return to begin the season, head coach Robert Saleh ruled out their second-year signal caller for the first three weeks, saying he still needed time to heal.

Now, Wilson is slated to retake the field on Sunday, pending official approval from the team’s doctors, said Saleh. 

“We’re looking for confirmation,” Saleh said. “Once Zach’s doctors clear him, he’ll be ready to roll. I can’t really define that until we get clearance from them.”

“I’m expecting [him back], but until the doctors say so, I’m just going to say he’s being evaluated.” 

Wilson has been practicing with the team on the field since after their Week 2 game, and several Jets insiders believe he will be cleared and ready to go against the Steelers. 

The starter’s absence left quarterback Joe Flacco under center for their opening trio of games — and while Flacco played admirably in their Week 2 comeback win over the Browns, he has left much to be desired. 

Flacco boasts just a 58.71% completion rate, while recording 5 touchdowns along with 3 interceptions and 4 fumbles through Week 3. 

Fans are hoping that Wilson’s return will rejuvenate the lagging offense. But, even with the 2021 Draft’s second-overall pick back on the field, Gang Green should still be fretting their decimated pass protection game.

The Jets have suffered numerous injuries on their offensive line, beginning when starting left tackle Mekhi Becton suffered an injury to his right knee cap during training camp on Aug. 8, which ended his season before it ever began.

The team then brought in veteran Pro-Bowler Duane Brown to replace Becton, but the 37-year-old later sustained a shoulder injury just before Week 1, and was subsequently placed on the injured reserve list. 

That left George Fant to take starting duties protecting their quarterbacks’ blind side — until the injury bug struck again, and Fant injured his knee Sunday. The team then put him on the injured reserve list, and he will be out for at least four weeks. 

That leaves Conor McDermott with the likely starting job on the O-line, as the fourth left tackle to take starting snaps for the Jets this season. They’ve given up nine sacks already — and that was when they were healthy. 

Wilson finished his rookie season with a 55.6% completion rate and 2,334 yards over the course of 13 games, while recording 9 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. 

While his forgettable numbers are typical for rookies in the NFL, he stepped up his game as the season progressed — as the quarterback tossed 5 touchdowns to just 1 interception over the last 6 games of the season. 

As he makes his way back onto the field, Wilson will need to overcome the lackluster pass protection as he strives to prove that he can be the franchise quarterback going forward.

For more coverage of Zach Wilson and the Jets, head to amNY.com.

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