EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — After missing three games with a knee injury, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is set to return next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I am expecting [him back]but until the doctors say so, I’m just going to say he’s being assessed,” coach Robert Saleh said Sunday after a 27-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
Once Wilson is cleared — that could be determined as early as Monday — he will return to his role as a starter. Saleh has repeatedly said that Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021, will play as soon as he is healthy. The coach’s position has not changed, a source said.
There could have been a mini-controversy if substitute Joe Flacco had stayed hot, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and took four sacks in a lackluster performance from the entire offense, which failed to score a touchdown against the Bengals.
A week earlier, Flacco, 37, had delivered one of the best games of his career, throwing four touchdowns to lead the Jets to a miraculous win over the Cleveland Browns. Now he is back on the bench.
“We’ll see. You know more than me,” Flacco said. “I’m going to keep my head down and keep working, doing everything I can for this team, whatever role that may be.”
Wilson, who suffered a meniscus tear and a bone bruise in his right knee in the preseason opener, underwent arthroscopy Aug. 16. The Jets announced he would be back for Week 4 at the earliest. In keeping with that schedule, Wilson returned to limited training two weeks ago, beginning a gradual build-up that should culminate with him training fully on Wednesday. Ahead of Sunday’s game, Wilson was seen in pregame warmups, throwing and moving well without a sleeve on his surgically repaired knee.
The Jets could use a spark. After scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes of their return to Cleveland, they mostly spat at the Bengals. The home crowd booed in the second half and sang for Mike White, the Jets’ third stringer who was active.
When asked if he was considering a change in the game, Saleh simply replied ‘No’.
Flacco completed 28 of 52 passes for 285 yards, giving him 155 pass attempts in three games. He has five touchdown passes, three interceptions, 901 passing yards and a measly 39.6 QBR. The Jets (1-2) played from behind in each of the first three games and failed to establish a consistent ground game, putting pressure on Flacco.
Pass protection also broke down against the Bengals. Left tackle George Fant allowed two sacks and aggravated his surgically repaired knee. He was replaced by Conor McDermott, who debuted in 2022 and allowed a sacking.
“The fans want to see you win football games,” Flacco said, addressing the boos. “You get the frustration, but it was a two-point game. If we put one in the end zone there… we’ve got bigger things to worry about than listening to that stuff.”