FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New England Patriots – New York Jets rivalry enters a new phase Sunday. Let’s call it the Mac & Zach era.
For the first time in the 62-year history of the series, the Patriots and Jets will start rookie quarterbacks against each other — Mac Jones and Zach Wilson , respectively. These aren’t just any rookies. They’re both first-round draft picks and are considered the long-term answers at the position.
Wilson, 22, was drafted No. 2 overall out of BYU. Jones, 23, out of Alabama, was the No. 15 pick. Chapter I of the quarterback rivalry begins on Wilson’s turf at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss (Patriots) and Rich Cimini (Jets) take a closer look at Jones and Wilson: What has each organization learned about its quarterback?
Reiss: That Jones can handle pressure — first as the potential franchise quarterback in the post- Tom Brady era, and then on the field. The Miami Dolphins blitzed Jones 45% of the time in the season opener (second-highest total in the NFL), and Jones was 9-of-13 with a touchdown when under duress, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was complimentary of Jones’ opening performance (29-of-39 for 281 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT).
"They certainly challenged us with a lot of different looks and pressures. That’s to be expected, and I thought Mac handled most of that very well," McDaniels said. "His communication, I thought, was clear. It was consistent. He was loud."
Overall, Jones has earned the respect of teammates and coaches with a veteran-like approach — always working and keeping an even keel.
Cimini: That Wilson can take a punch. He was hit nine times by the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, including a two-man body slam late in the game, but he never flinched. You never know about a young quarterback until you see him in game action — how he responds to getting hit. Wilson wasn’t knocked down in the preseason and he certainly didn’t get roughed up last season against BYU’s cream-puff schedule, so it was an unknown going into the regular season. His resilience impressed teammates. "Man, he’s a tough dude," Jets wide receiver Corey Davis said. "He got hit a lot. Just to see how he reacted, there was no frustration, no anger. He was just poised." His overall numbers under pressure weren’t good (3-for-13, 87 yards, 1 TD), but he improved a lot in the second half. And the biggest concern for these rookies this season will be …
Reiss: Jones took nine hits in the season opener, and Patriots center David Andrews said the team needs to do a better job taking care of him. "We were disturbed by it," added offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. Jones is 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, wears a protective brace over his left knee and hasn’t experienced the benefits of a full NFL offseason program, so it isn’t a stretch to say preservation is a top […]