Jets to start Mike White at QB vs. Bills as Zach Wilson not ready to return to action

With Zach Wilson’s injured knee not ready for game action, Jets head coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday that Mike White will get the start on Sunday against the Bills.

Veteran QB Joe Flacco is expected to back up White.


“We had a feeling on Monday with Zach’s knee that he’s not fully ready to go,” Saleh said, “and Mike got all of his strength back. He feels good, no residual effects from Thursday so we are going with Mike.”

Saleh hinted at this outcome on Monday.


“If he’s not fully healthy, it’ll be irresponsible for us to throw him out there,” Saleh said of Wilson.

But it’s evident based on how Saleh spoke on Wednesday, if White plays well against the Bills, the Jets will ride the hot hand.

“If Mike is playing phenomenal football, it is what it is. I mean you guys might call it a controversy or not,” Saleh said. “But I think I can pull up an article and every single one of you guys that talk about that has mentioned that the best thing for a young quarterback is to watch. So there’s no harm either way.”

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, suffered the knee injury in Gang Green’s Week 7 loss to the Patriots. He had started the first six games of his pro career. White came off the bench against the Patriots for his first career NFL action.

So far, White has played well in his eight quarters of action. He threw for 702 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 72% of his passes. The White hysteria erupted when he tossed 405 yards with three touchdowns as the Jets upset the Bengals in Week 8.

The hype suffered a speed bump after White suffered a forearm injury during the first quarter of the Colts game after he tossed a touchdown to Elijah Moore. White was ruled out for the rest of the night.

On Monday, Saleh claimed whenever Wilson is fully healthy, he would be the starter. But Wednesday, Saleh walked that statement back and is going “day-to-day” on that.

Saleh doesn’t view the possibility of sitting Wilson as an indictment of him. He’s looked like a rookie quarterback this season.

Mike White is the hot hand for the Jets, for now.

“We have the utmost confidence in Zach when he gets ready to play and when he gets back on the football field that he’s going to do a phenomenal job. His talent is undeniable,” Saleh said. “So there’s a great amount of growth that can happen whether he’s playing or not.”

The former BYU star threw four touchdowns with nine interceptions, tied for third most in the NFL, and has a passer rating of 63.5, worst in the league.

But he’s had moments when he’s flashed elite talent. The two deep bombs against the Titans come to mind. The 40-yard dart to Denzel Mims while getting crushed against the Panthers was another wow play.

And there have been times Wilson missed easy layups, too. Against the Falcons he skipped a bubble route to Jamison Crowder that could have gone for a touchdown. There have been numerous plays where he holds the ball a bit too long looking for the big play when the checkdown is there to keep the offense on track.

Wilson has been adjusting to the speed of the NFL, the normal process for a rookie quarterback. Justin Herbert, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow have unfairly skewed the perspective on rookie signal callers.

Could Wilson have played better? Absolutely. But he’s a rookie. This is typical. Saleh sees this opportunity for Wilson to see how the offense should run.


“Mike has done a phenomenal job in presenting the ability where you’re getting good football out of the quarterback,” Saleh said. “So it’d be one thing if you’re throwing out a quarterback and he’s playing terrible and there’s nothing to learn from. It’s another thing when there’s a quarterback that’s giving you a clear blueprint on how this offense is supposed to be run in that regard.”

White is facing an elite defense in the Bills. They’re first in yards allowed per game (262.6), points (14.8), and passing yards allowed (177).

So if Chef White can continue to cook against that defense, it’ll be his job for the foreseeable future.