Joe Flacco will lead the New York Jets against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, on Sunday in Week 1. While this isn’t necessarily the feel-good story that will eventually be turned into a generic Disney sports flick, the optics of Flacco’s homecoming in Baltimore will heighten the tension of a season opener between two teams looking to make it back to the playoffs.
Jets to start Joe Flacco with Zach Wilson sidelined
Second-year QB Zach Wilson is recovering well from his preseason knee surgery, according to Jets head coach Robert Saleh. However, Saleh said Wilson won’t be cleared to perform against the Ravens, so Flacco will lead the offense this weekend.
According to Saleh, Wilson isn’t likely to return until Week 4, at the earliest. That means that Flacco could be the torchbearer for the offense for the next three weeks.
Wilson “looks fantastic, he still looks good, he feels good,” Saleh said. “He’s not walking with a limp or anything. But just gathering all of the information and talking to their doctors, along with ours, we’re just going to end it until Pittsburgh.”
Saleh made it clear that Wilson won’t head to the injured reserve. If Wilson were to be put in on the IR, he would need to miss a minimum of four games, completely wiping out the possibility of a Week 4 performance against the Steelers. The Jets also want to make sure Wilson can practice prior to the Week 4 matchup.
Flacco, who spent the first 11 years of his career in Baltimore, will make his sixth start in three years. The former Super Bowl MVP has been relegated to backup duty for the better part of the past two years, and this could be the 37-year-old’s last shot at significant NFL playing time.
As Pro Football Network reported during its training camp tour, Flacco had a very promising summer in the Meadowlands. Saleh has repeatedly said that Flacco is a starting-caliber QB, and now he will need to prove he was worthy of that praise through the start of the Jets’ season.
Saleh, who is in his second season as head coach, needs to show progress after last year’s underwhelming debut. GM Joe Douglas has bolstered the roster significantly through free agency and the draft this offseason, and now it’s on Saleh to lead his team to wins.
While Flacco hasn’t played a lot over the last three years, Saleh has routinely expressed his confidence in the longtime QB. If Flacco can lead the Jets to a 2-1 or 3-0 record to begin the season, the Jets might be inclined to wait to bring Wilson back until he is at 100% health-wise.
Either way, this is a huge development for the offense. Flacco will need to guide high-round rookies Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall during their first major snaps in the NFL, and that could be their benefit. Veterans like Corey Davis, C.J. Uzomah, and Tyler Conklin could benefit immediately from Flacco’s expertise and experience. Flacco could be a calming presence for an otherwise inexperienced locker room.
Flacco’s preseason performance
With Wilson sidelined after the preseason opener and Flacco already having a wealth of experience, the Jets protected their backup QB on the sideline. Instead of risking Flacco to injury, the Jets went with Mike White and Chris Streveler for the majority of the exhibition slate.
Flacco only played in the preseason finale against the Giants, tossing 12 passes for seven completions, 76 yards, and an interception.
The Jets are hoping that Flacco can perform more like he did in training camp than in his brief exhibition outing.