Zach Wilson is taking the phrase "Be Like Mike" quite literally these days.
The New York Jets rookie quarterback said Thursday that he's working on being more like teammate Mike White, who has shown the ability to diagnose a defense and get the ball out to the open receiver, not forcing passes downfield.
"I would say my style of play needs to get more like that," Wilson said, via the team's official website. "It was the same thing in college. Maybe I forced things a little bit too much my freshman, sophomore years. But I found that balance my junior year, I found what risks were worth it and I was still able to have those big explosive plays, but I took care of the ball."
In limited reps, White has moved the ball much more efficiently in Mike LaFleur's offense than Wilson. The 26-year-old generated 405 passing yards, three TDs, two INTs and a 107.9 passer rating in Week 8. In Week 9, White went 7-of-11 for 95 yards, a TD, and a 121.4 passer rating before a forearm injury knocked him out early.
The Jets have scored 30-plus points and finished with 480-plus total yards in both games this season since Wilson's injury. Wilson has thrown four TDs in 22 quarters played this season. White has five TDs in eight quarters. Third QB Josh Johnson has three in four quarters.
The ease with which White moves the offense has led some to wonder whether Wilson should be concerned about the veteran usurping his role.
"No, definitely not, and the reason is I've only played five games. I just got here," Wilson said. "I'm supposed to be a senior in college right now, you know. You've got to understand it's going to be hard and I'm not making any excuses but that's where growth comes.
"I look back at my college career, and the year before I got there we were 4-9. We went 7-6 twice and then we had an 11-1 season. That's how football goes. You have to go through adversity to get where you want to go. I definitely didn't come here thinking this is going to be the greatest thing ever and we're going to go undefeated."
Wilson's knee injury will keep him out of the starting lineup once again Sunday against Buffalo. If White shines, things could get more awkward for Wilson.
"I really do hope Mike does well and I hope the team wins," the rookie said. "And it's just because of the business of it all and the way that Mike treated me when he was the backup. He deserves to do well -- he's been working his butt off. The whole situation, it's been a lot smoother than you would think it would be, right? And so I think it's only going to be beneficial for me in the long run."
Wilson digesting the things White does well and implementing them once he inevitably returns could benefit the Jets long-term. The dynamic rookie striking the right balance between finding the check-down and going for the home run would go a long way towards his development.