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Zach Wilson walked in and out of the Atlantic Health Training Center over the weekend feeling wrapped in a cocoon of comfort.
The Jets’ new franchise quarterback had already inherited 2020 first-round left tackle Mekhi Becton and second-round wide receiver Denzel Mims, as well as wide receiver Corey Davis, Joe Douglas’ 2021 free agency catch. He then was gifted elite left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and dynamic receiver Elijah Moore in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively, of this year’s draft, then a 5-foot-8, 202-pound running back and kick returner named Michael Carter with explosiveness, vision, hands and 4.5 speed in the fourth round.
It was as if Douglas had promised Sam Darnold’s parents that he would get Wilson more protectors and more playmakers to give him more of a fighting chance than their exiled son ever had during his turbulent three seasons with the Jets.
For Darnold, failed as he was by former coach Adam Gase (and to a lesser degree by Le’Veon Bell), the drafting of Becton and the injury-plagued Mims proved too little and too late.
Now, the Jets have a CEO head coach, Robert Saleh, whose force of personality, passion and energy will rally the locker room and change the culture for the better. And a bright offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur, who will install an offense tailor-made for Wilson, and whose quarterback whispering will not go in one ear and out the other.
This draft got the Jets off the runway and will enable their young new franchise pilot to take flight. This now has the makings of an entertaining offense. Imagine if Douglas had kept WR Robby Anderson instead of replacing him with Breshad Perriman.
So kudos to Douglas for supporting his young franchise quarterback the way Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge have now supported Daniel Jones with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Rudolph and John Ross (if he can stay healthy), the way every organization is obligated to build around its marquee attraction.
There will be growing pains for Wilson along the way, because there always are for rookie quarterbacks, so let’s not expect the kid to be an immediate savior, riding in on a green-and-white horse to the deafening roar of “J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!” from a stadium hopefully filled with vaccinated fans.
But he will have competent, professional people in his corner and enough pieces to set him up for success.
Of course as Douglas stayed true to his board, he knowingly could not plug all the holes on the green-and-white Titanic.
- Jets complete 2021 NFL Draft tracker
With Saleh either bound and gagged or wearing an “I Trust Joe” headband until the fifth round, some killjoy graffiti artist etched “Defense LOL” on the iceberg up ahead.
Wilson will likely be forced to find himself engaged in more than a few shootouts, which a daring gunslinger like him will undoubtedly embrace, but he won’t be playing North Alabama or Western Kentucky anymore.
Saleh will need to show up as the diabolical young Bill Belichick tormenting opposing quarterbacks, because the young Richard Sherman isn’t in that cornerback room, and neither is the young Darrelle Revis. Perhaps the 33-year-old Sherman will join it.
All gas for Zach Wilson, and no break for Robert Saleh.
Douglas wisely wasn’t inclined to reach for cornerbacks Kelvin Joseph or Asante Samuel Jr. when the game-changing Moore was staring him in the face with the 34th pick.
It’s not as if Douglas did nothing for Gang Green in the offseason: He added an edge rusher with upside, Carl Lawson, and a former first-round pick, Sheldon Rankins, to pair inside with Quinnen Williams. He also added former veteran Eagle defensive end Vinny Curry, and linebacker Jarrad Davis to a needy unit.
But Josh Allen won’t be losing any sleep when he reviews Salem’s cornerback depth chart: LCB Bless Austin, RCB Bryce Hall.
When Douglas finally threw his rookie head coach a bone, it was hybrid S/LB Jamien Sherwood and CBs Michael Carter II and Jason Pinnock in the fifth round and S Hamsah Nasirildeen, CB Brandin Echols and DT Jonathan Marshall in the sixth round.
Belichick added tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and WRs Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and if Cam Newton can rebound or Mac Jones develops into Tom Brady Lite …
The Dolphins added WR Jaylen Waddle, the AFC East’s version of Tyreek Hill. If he can’t help Tua Tagovailoa, who can?
But if Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Jets won’t be either. Douglas has a pair of first- and second-round picks in 2022.
All gas for Zach Wilson, and no break for Robert Saleh. Exactly the way to go.
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