By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets will try to turn around their season without Zach Wilson for a few games.
The rookie quarterback has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will be sidelined two to four weeks, coach Robert Saleh confirmed after Wilson had an MRI on Monday.
To help fill in for Wilson, the Jets acquired veteran Joe Flacco from Philadelphia for a conditional sixth-round draft pick, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal. The pick can become a fifth-rounder based on playing time for Flacco, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn’t announced the trade.
NFL Network first reported the trade for Flacco, who started four games for the Jets last season when Sam Darnold was injured. The 36-year-old Flacco signed with Philadelphia in the offseason.
Wilson was injured in the second quarter of New York’s 54-13 loss to New England on Sunday when he was hit by Patriots linebacker Matt Judon, who fell on the back of the quarterback’s legs after he threw an incomplete pass.
Wilson and the team said after the game the initial diagnosis was a sprained PCL, which was the best-case scenario for the hobbled quarterback as he avoided a more serious, potentially season-ending injury. Saleh said the Jets will gather more information during the week before deciding whether to place Wilson on injured reserve to see if he can return after two weeks or if he’ll be sidelined longer.
“He can still be very active in his rehab, active in his learning and keep pace with the install of the offense,” Saleh said. “And he’ll be back before you know it.”
The injury will keep Wilson out for at least the Jets’ game next Sunday at home against Cincinnati and their Thursday night game at Indianapolis on Nov. 4. New York is then home against Buffalo on Nov. 14 and Miami on Nov. 21.
Wilson said he heard a “pop” in his right knee when he was hurt, and he said after the game “it just kind of feels like something is off as far as just being loose or a little bit unstable a little bit.”
There was some initial concern the injury might have been more serious, but initial exams indicated it was likely a PCL injury and not a potentially season-ending situation.
“I’m hoping I can get in there and do what I can to come back as fast as possible, making sure everything’s good,” Wilson said after the game. “So, once we get these results, just hit the rehab and everything for long and just find out what I’m capable of doing and trying it back as fast as possible.”
Saleh downplayed the notion missing games can hurt Wilson’s overall progress.
“I don’t think it’s a setback,” Saleh insisted. “It’s always good to be able to step away and just watch the offense through the lens of another quarterback.”
Mike White made his NFL debut while replacing Wilson after the injury, going 20 of 32 for 202 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He could fill in while Wilson is sidelined, with Flacco also a possibility and veteran Josh Johnson on the practice squad.
“I believe 100% in Mike White. This whole team does,” running back Ty Johnson said. “We’ve got a guy who came in there and played his (butt) off.”
White is in his fourth NFL season, but hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game. He was drafted by Dallas in the fifth round in 2018 out of Western Kentucky. White was waived by the Cowboys during final cuts the following summer, and the Jets signed him to their practice squad.
New York opted to not sign a veteran in the offseason to back up Wilson, instead having White and James Morgan compete for the job. The 35-year-old Johnson was signed during training camp, but he hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2018 with Washington.
White won the backup job and Morgan was since signed to Carolina’s practice squad.
“I’m confident in myself,” White said Sunday. “I’m mostly confident in the guys we have in that locker room, the leaders we have. The coaching staff, too. Have to make the corrections necessary and keep going and being professionals and working our tails off and trying to get this thing going.”
Flacco has not played in a regular-season game since last year when he was with the Jets under Adam Gase. The Super Bowl MVP with Baltimore during the 2012 season threw for 864 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions last season. He has 224 career TD passes over 14 NFL seasons with Baltimore, Denver, the Jets and Eagles.
The Jets are 1-5 under Saleh and their offense under coordinator Mike LaFleur is struggling mightily. New York has yet to score a point in the first quarter of any game this season, the first team to be held scoreless in the opening period over its first six games since the 2008 Detroit Lions, who went 0-16.
Wilson had an up-and-down first six games, throwing for just four touchdowns while tying Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for the NFL lead with nine interceptions. He has completed just 58% of his passes, ranking second worst among quarterbacks with at least five starts with only Chicago’s Justin Fields — a fellow rookie — worse at 57.3%.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, now will have to watch from the sideline as he heals.
“There’s nothing like playing,” LaFleur said. “That’s where you gain the most experience. … From a positive side, to spin it, these next however many weeks he’s out, he’ll be able to kind of sit back, go back, regroup, look at the last six games — what did you do well, where do we need to continue to progress both as an offense and as a quarterback?”
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