Aug 21, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jets, Panthers have QBs in the spotlight for opener

Sam Darnold has been upstaged at times during his NFL career.

The new quarterback for the Carolina Panthers might be falling into that category again going into the season opener against the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.

That’s because Darnold’s replacement with the Jets is Zach Wilson, who’ll make his pro debut after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 draft.

The Panthers acquired Darnold, who played his first three seasons with the Jets, during an offseason move. That resulted in the departure of Teddy Bridgewater, who spent one season with Carolina.

“With Sam, it’s a new beginning,” said Panthers receiver Robby Anderson, a sixth-year pro who spent his first four seasons with the Jets. “Lots of time, new beginnings is what a lot of us need. Turning that page to a new chapter.”

For Wilson, it might be even more special as he makes the leap from BYU to Jets starter as one of the team’s captains.

“For Zach, it’s about him and his process and it’s about him getting ready to play the best he possibly can,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said, noting this shouldn’t be a case of judging Wilson vs. Darnold.

There’s plenty new in this matchup.

Saleh makes his NFL coaching debut with the Jets after arriving from the San Francisco 49ers staff.

“I’m sure I’ll be as amped up as all heck on Sunday,” said Saleh, who was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.

Matt Rhule is in his second season with Carolina after a 5-11 record in 2020, and, with the Jets’ new coaching staff and rookie QB, he’s facing a challenge.

“We have to prepare for everything right now,” Rhule said. “We’re preparing for a lot of different looks, a lot of different personnel. There are just so many unknowns.”

Even with the attention Wilson is receiving, the Jets could be stout on the other side despite a young defensive backfield.

“They are put together really well defensively,” Rhule said.

With a more conventional offseason, the Panthers should be much more comfortable in establishing what they want to do going into this season.

“It’s night and day from last year,” Rhule said. “We have a much more collective sense of how we want to win, how we want to do things. I think we’re way farther ahead. How much that is, we’ll see on Sunday.”

It’s also the return in many ways of versatile Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who was one of the most productive players in the league in 2019. Last season, he appeared in just three games because of injuries. McCaffrey racked up 97 yards of total offense against the Jets as a rookie in 2017.

“To have him, I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Rhule said. “We’re excited to get him back involved.”

The Panthers also have turned to Ryan Santoso, a former New York Giant, as the kicker, replacing Joey Slye, who became too inconsistent to keep.

The Jets are waiting on word regarding the status of receiver Jamison Crowder, who remained in COVID protocol Wednesday.

With all the roster adjustments for both teams, it’s time to see how they stack up.

“It’s the real season now, real games,” Anderson said. “Play time is over with.”

The Panthers are 4-3 all-time against the Jets, winning three of four home games. Carolina’s first victory in franchise history came against the Jets in its first season in 1995 when home games were played in Clemson, S.C.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) rolls out to throw a pass in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie QBs Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson named team captains

The Jacksonville Jaguars showed their faith in Trevor Lawrence back in April by selecting the quarterback with the top overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The New York Jets followed suit when they selected Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick.

On Wednesday, the Jaguars and Jets doubled down, naming the rookie quarterbacks team captains for the upcoming season. Lawrence will be one of seven captains, Wilson one of five.

Lawrence was named the team’s starter following a training camp battle with the since-traded Gardner Minshew II.

The 21-year-old Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in three seasons at Clemson. The 6-foot-6 quarterback also ran for 943 yards and 18 scores.

Joining Lawrence as a Jaguars’ team captain are defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen, cornerback Shaq Griffin, linebacker Myles Jack, safety Rayshawn Jenkins, center Brandon Linder and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.

The Jaguars open their season at the Houston Texans on Sunday.

In New York, Wilson will be joined as captain by wide receiver Corey Davis, linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi and Justin Hardee.

The Jets will visit the Carolina Panthers Sunday for their season opener. They reconnect with Sam Darnold, whom Wilson replaced as starting quarterback.

A BYU product, Wilson threw for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the Cougars to an 11-1 record in 2020. For his collegiate career, he threw for 7,652 yards with 56 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

May 27, 2021; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass during an OTA at Jets Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Jets reach deal with top pick Zach Wilson

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and the New York Jets reached an agreement on a contract, ending the No. 2 overall draft pick’s brief training camp holdout.

The deal is for four years and $35.15 million, with a $22.92 million signing bonus. The base salary grows in subsequent seasons, from $660,000 this year to $5.45 million in Year 4, per Spotrac. The Jets hold the fifth-year option.

Jets training camp opened Tuesday.

Per reporting from NFL Network, the holdout stemmed from offset language and signing bonus timing. The Jets were able to retain the offset language in exchange for a reworked signing bonus schedule. Wilson, who turns 22 next week, will receive the money within 15 days, ESPN reported.

The 6-foot-3 Wilson was the second quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who went No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A BYU product, Wilson threw for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the Cougars to an 11-1 record in 2020. For his collegiate career, he threw for 7,652 yards with 56 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

The Jets are scheduled to open the season Sept. 12 against their former starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, and the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

Quarterback, Zach Wilson practices his footwork as the New York Jets participate in OTA   s at their practice facility in Florham Park, NJ on June 10, 2021.

The New York Jets Participate In Ota S At Their Practice Facility In Florham Park Nj On June 10 2021

Jets ‘hopeful’ No. 2 pick Zach Wilson signs before Wednesday practice

No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson is not with the New York Jets as training camp begins, but first-year head coach Robert Saleh said he hopes the rookie quarterback will arrive soon.

Wilson, unsigned as likely offset language in his initial contract causes a rift in negotiations, was in California on Monday working with a private quarterback coach based on his Instagram posts.

Wilson’s contract value is set — four years, $35.2 million guaranteed, with a fifth-year team option.

But general manager Joe Douglas and Wilson’s reps are still working through granular details of the agreement.

“With regards to Zach, obviously Joe’s working on it here this morning and hopefully that gets done,” Saleh said Tuesday. “But as it is with every player on this roster, when one person misses, another person has to take over those reps, so it’s a challenge just in terms of trying to maintain the wear and tear on all these individual players.

“But for the individual, that’s where the challenge becomes in terms of making up those reps. Everybody knows how important it is to me and our team with regards to reps and practice and process, and every moment you miss from that process, it becomes a challenge from an individual standpoint. But as a team, we’re in good shape, the installs are in good shape and we’re ready to roll.”

The Jets’ first full squad workout on the practice field in Wednesday.

Wilson entered Tuesday as one of three unsigned first-round picks, but the Los Angeles Chargers agreed to a deal with Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater. That leaves Wilson and No. 3 pick Trey Lance as the lone “holdouts.”

Since rookie deals became part of the salary cap signing pool, holdouts have become rare for first-year players.

But offset language has often been a sticking point. Offset payments refer to what the original team would receive in supplemental pay if a draft pick is cut and signs with another team. Timing of bonus payments can also be a sticking point.

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed both of their first-rounders, No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and No. 25 Travis Etienne, to four-year contracts with no offset language.

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2020; Boca Raton, Florida, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scrambles with the ball against the UCF Knights during the first half at FAU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

GM: ‘Fair assessment’ Jets want QB at No. 2

Connecting the dots on the Sam Darnold trade implies the New York Jets are once again starting over at the quarterback position.

General manager Joe Douglas did nothing to debunk that theory on Tuesday while discussing the team’s deal with the Carolina Panthers.

“I think that’s a fair assessment based on the decision we made (Monday), you can kind of see the direction we’re heading,” Douglas said Tuesday. “When it comes to (trading) pick 2 … obviously never say never. As I’ve said to you guys in the past, I’ll always answer the phone if it’s ringing.”

New York has multiple first-round picks and three of the top 35 picks in the 2021 draft, but a reset at quarterback is the headline news for the Jets.

Darnold, picked third overall in 2018 by then-GM Mike Maccagnan, is expected to be replaced by BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson is the presumptive No. 2 pick after a breakout junior season and widely projected to be a top-five pick.

The uncertainty around the Jets’ direction melted away with the Darnold move and the likelihood of quarterbacks being the top two picks increased. Jacksonville holds the No. 1 pick and is locked in on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

Taking a quarterback in the top four for the second time in four years is unprecedented. No team has done it in the modern draft era (since 1967).

Douglas said if the Jets were drafting “a little later” in the first round, holding onto Darnold would have been a serious consideration. He’s owed $23.6 million over the next two seasons as part of his rookie contract.

“We felt ultimately at the end of the day this was an opportunity to hit the reset button financially, so to speak,” Douglas said.

Wilson would become the Jets’ fifth quarterback drafted in the first two rounds since 2009, including Darnold, Christian Hackenberg, Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez.

With the exception of the most recent selections of defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (2019) and offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, the Jets have either released or traded every first-round pick since 2013 before they reached a second contract.

–Field Level Media