Zach Wilson to start at QB for Jets; Mike White not cleared by doctors

White is dealing with a rib injury that twice knocked him out of the Jets' loss to the Bills on Sunday.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) reacts against the Chicago Bears during an NFL football game, Nov. 27, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. Wilson is moving up on the New York Jets' quarterback depth chart this week. Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 the benched former starter is being promoted from No. 3 to the backup behind current starter Mike White, who's dealing with a rib injury but is expected to make his fourth straight start Sunday against the Detroit Lions. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) The Associated Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson will start at quarterback for the New York Jets on Sunday against the Detroit Lions after Mike White was not cleared by doctors to play.

White is dealing with a rib injury that twice knocked him out of the Jets’ 20-12 loss at Buffalo last Sunday. He finished the game, but was examined at a hospital afterward.

White was cleared to practice and said throughout the week he had no doubt he would start Sunday, but coach Robert Saleh said Friday that team doctors wouldn’t clear him for contact.

“Mike White is an absolute warrior and has been doing everything he could this week to find another opinion to get him onto the football field, to find somebody who would clear him for contact,” Saleh said.


Saleh added that White “exhausted every measure he possibly can” because he wanted to play.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve got to do what’s best for the player,” Saleh said. “And we’ve got to protect the player from the player,” Saleh said.

Saleh said the Jets will re-evaluate White’s injury Monday, but acknowledged it will be a short turnaround with New York hosting Jacksonville next Thursday night. Saleh declined to detail the exact nature of White’s injury. The quarterback said throughout the week that he was sore.

“If you talk to him … he feels fine,” Saleh said. “He can throw a ball fine, he is not in pain. It’s a contact issue. If it was 7 on 7, he’d be out there playing, but it’s not.”

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick last year, was benched last month to focus on improving his mental approach and mechanics. The Jets elevated him earlier this week from No. 3 behind White and Joe Flacco to No. 2.

Instead, Wilson will now be the starter with the Jets (7-6) trying to keep pace in the AFC playoff hunt.

“This is going to be a great opportunity for Zach,” Saleh said. “When he was elevated to the No. 2 quarterback, it was with the understanding there’s a strong possibility he was going to play and to prepare accordingly. He’s gotten the vast majority of the first-team reps. He’ll get all the reps today, he’ll get all the reps tomorrow.


“So, we feel very comfortable about Zach’s preparation as the first-string quarterback and that he has gotten his normal workload as a starting quarterback would normally get.”

Wilson missed the first three games of this season while recovering from a knee injury, with Flacco starting in his place. Wilson started the next seven and the Jets went 5-2 in those games, but his play was mostly shaky. He had four touchdown passes and five interceptions and had a 55.6 completion percentage as New York’s offense struggled to produce points.

After Wilson went just 9 of 22 for 77 yards in a 10-3 loss at New England in Week 11, the Jets elevated White to starter.

Meanwhile, Wilson was inactive the last three games, and not even dressed in uniform on the sideline. Saleh said the Jets thought there was a chance White wouldn’t be able to play this week, so they made the move to elevate Wilson on the depth chart.

Wilson rubbed some within the organization the wrong way after the loss to the Patriots when he said he didn’t feel as though he let the defense down despite his poor play. Wilson apologized to his teammates a few days later, but there was a perception that perhaps he had lost the support of the locker room to some degree.


“I think our guys trust him,” Saleh said. “I feel like he’s had a really good week of practice. I feel like he’s been very good over the last three weeks in being deliberate and attacking the moments that we’ve asked him to attack and all the different things with regards to footwork and fundamentals.

“I don’t know that there’s a trust issue. He’s got to go out there and do the best he possibly can.”

NOTES: WR Corey Davis was also ruled out for the game while remaining in concussion protocol. … Saleh said the Jets are “hopeful” DT Quinnen Williams (calf) will play. “He is still going to be 50/50,” the coach said, “but D-linemen don’t need to practice to be ready for game day.” … CB Brandin Echols will sit out the game with a quadriceps injury.


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