FLORHAM PARK, NJ (AP) — Zach Wilson is unquestionably the main objective this offseason for the new look of the New York Jets. And it’s not just about the progression of his skills on the pitch.
That’s key, of course, but the sophomore quarterback’s physical appearance is already the talk of the establishment.
“You will see it. He’s thick,” coach Robert Saleh said Tuesday with a big laugh.
Saleh may soon run out of proper adjectives to describe the appearance of Wilson, who he said ‘looks beefy’ earlier this month when asked about the QB’s clear dedication to a diet and the weight room over the past few months.
“This guy is strong”, a smile Wilson said of his muscular head coach when informed of Saleh’s comments.
One thing is certain: Wilson looks a little different. His neck is a bit thicker, his legs and arms more muscular.
“He looks good, he looks confident – his shoulders are back, he didn’t give in,” Saleh said ahead of the team’s second practice of Organized Team Activities. “He’s confident, he smiles, he talks.
“You can always tell the level of confidence and their understanding of what they’re being asked to do by the volume of their voice. And it gets quite loud.”
And get in better shape.
“I think this is probably the first time in my life that I’ve taken a broader approach to the nutrition side rather than just weightlifting,” Wilson, 22, said. “Of course, every year you do your typical strength, lifting, and running training. But usually you’re just trying to eat healthy.
Instead, Wilson worked with Jets dietician Nicolette Mense to develop a better meal plan.
“I actually have a written plan of how much to eat, when to eat, and tracking everything down to the macro,” Wilson said. “That’s probably the biggest difference when it comes to the ability to gain weight.”
The 6-foot-2 Wilson said he weighed 208 pounds at the end of last season and now weighs 221. He wants to play around 218 this season when he will be heavily relied on to make big improvements in his game. He finished with nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in 13 games as a rookie – but hasn’t been knocked out in his last five games.
It was a clear sign that things were slowing down mentally for him. And he thinks improving physically will help him even more on the pitch. He already feels he has more stamina throughout a practice and having more muscle on him will help him when he gets hit and tackled during the season.
“I mean, that was the goal,” Wilson said. “I definitely feel like from my past experiences of gaining weight, I feel more athletic, faster, the more muscle weight I gain. … I just feel like a better athlete with more weight on me for some reason.
However, one thing was hard for Wilson to fire while trying to stick to his new regimen.
“I have a pretty bad sweet tooth,” he laughed. “So that’s been the challenge, it’s cookies and cakes and that kind of stuff.”
As he supports those cravings, Wilson is also showing increased leadership on the court and in the locker room.
“I think what it takes, especially from a quarterback, is someone who can get everybody on the same page and get them in,” he said. “And I’ve never been the super, super vocal type, the guy who gets up in front of the team. But sometimes it’s necessary. And I think it means more when it happens.
Saleh said Wilson clearly had a much better understanding of the playbook than he did, especially a year ago when he was just beginning to understand life in the NFL.
“It just changes the second year,” Saleh said.
Wilson has spent part of the offseason traveling to different regions to work with some of his playmakers, trying to build an even better relationship on the field. He said he expects to gather several of his teammates for training sessions in July before the start of training camp.
The new regimen and new look combined with a better understanding of the offense from coordinator Mike LaFleur should be big factors in helping Wilson improve significantly as he weathers the rest of the offseason.
“It’s great to be back there,” Wilson said. “Guys, the additions we have, the little wrinkles we’ve added within the offense and then just the challenge of seeing what we did last year and then trying to apply it and improving ourselves as a unit is a lot of fun. ”
NOTES: Saleh said a few players weren’t present for the OTAs, but declined to name them citing that the sessions are voluntary. … Saleh confirmed that OT Mekhi Becton was among them, saying it was expected since Becton’s girlfriend gave birth to their first child a few days ago.
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