NEW YORK — Zach Wilson is back — and just in time for the New York Jets.
The No. 2 overall pick will return as the starting quarterback Sunday against the Texans in Houston, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision. Wilson missed the past four games with a sprained posterior collateral ligament in his right knee.
Wilson returning to action comes just as backup quarterbacks Mike White and Joe Flacco were both placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday. That leaves just Wilson and Josh Johnson, who’s on the practice squad, at the quarterback position.
Johnson will likely be promoted to the active roster to serve as Wilson’s backup against the Texans.
Coach Robert Saleh said Monday the Jets would evaluate Wilson’s knee before making a decision by Wednesday morning on whether the rookie quarterback would be able to play. The knee checked out and Wilson will be back, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced the decision.
The Athletic first reported Wilson will start for the first time since being injured on Oct. 24. The Athletic also reported the Jets’ decision to start Wilson came before the situation with White and Flacco came to light.
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Flacco said last week he is not vaccinated. White’s vaccination status was not immediately known.
The 22-year-old Wilson was struggling when he was hurt against New England a month ago. He has just four touchdown passes and nine interceptions, and wasn’t in sync with the offense — which was ranked last in the NFL in most categories.
But Mike LaFleur’s unit began to thrive with Wilson sidelined. White started three games in Wilson’s absence, including his first NFL start during which he threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Cincinnati on Oct. 31. He was injured in his second start at Indianapolis, but Johnson threw for a career-high 317 yards and three TDs in relief of White.
Flacco got the start last Sunday in a 24-17 loss to Miami, doing a solid job by throwing for 291 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Meanwhile, Wilson wasn’t placed on injured reserve and has been able to practice the past two weeks on a limited basis. The Jets kept a close watch on the young quarterback, insisting he wouldn’t return to play until his knee was completely healthy.
“We’re going to make sure we protect this young man,” Saleh said Monday. “So when he is fully healthy and he feels like there’s no limitations in his ability to play football or he’s not thinking about that knee, we’ll get him out there. But he’s got to be 100% healthy before we get him out on the football field.”
Wilson recently said sitting out and watching his teammates run the offense efficiently will help him.
“I would say it’s almost just as beneficial as playing,” Wilson said. “Maybe you don’t feel it as much as far as just actually going through it, but we all think and see the same things. I understand why Mike made a certain decision on something that he did in a game or didn’t.”
And with seven games remaining for the 2-8 Jets, Wilson’s development and progress will be the primary focus.
NOTES: With K Matt Ammendola struggling lately, the Jets signed former Pitt K Alex Kessman to the practice squad. Kessman was with the Los Angeles Chargers during the offseason after being signed as an undrafted free agent. ... LB Corey Thompson was released from the practice squad to make room for Kessman.
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