Zach Wilson is back. Three weeks after the Jets quarterback was benched for backup Mike White, the former No. 2 overall pick will return as the starter for Sunday's Week 15 game against the Lions, coach Robert Saleh announced Friday. Wilson's promotion comes as a result of White's rib injury, which the latter suffered in Week 14's loss to the Bills. White told reporters this week he had no doubt about playing against Detroit, but team doctors have not cleared the QB for contact, Saleh said.
White, who's gone 1-2 replacing Wilson as the Jets' starter, left Sunday's defeat several times after absorbing hard hits to the ribs. He was determined to play this weekend, per ESPN, and has partaken in practice while expressing optimism about his physical condition. Saleh himself called the veteran "an absolute warrior" on Friday. But without medical clearance, White is likely to be inactive against Detroit, with Joe Flacco serving as the No. 2 behind Wilson on Sunday.
"This is going to be a great opportunity for Zach," Saleh said, noting that Wilson will receive all of the first-team reps under center in the remaining lead-up to Sunday's game. Just this week, Wilson had been promoted to the No. 2 QB slot after spending his first three weeks on the bench as the No. 3 behind Flacco. Saleh has talked repeatedly since benching Wilson about getting the former first-rounder back in the lineup. It just so happened that White's injury accelerated the timeline.
More than Sunday's game being a big opportunity for Wilson, of course, is that it's a critical opportunity for the Jets to remain in the AFC playoff picture. On the outside looking in at 7-6, New York needs a win to keep pace with the rival Dolphins (8-5) and Patriots (7-6), who currently own the conference's final two wild cards. The Jets' Week 15 opponent, the Lions, are also fighting to retain postseason aspirations.
Wilson struggled mightily as the Jets' QB1 before being replaced, ranking as one of the least efficient starters in the NFL. White, meanwhile, did not have pretty numbers in his past two starts -- both losses, against the Vikings and Bills -- but flashed big-play ability in his first start and earned instant praise from teammates on both sides of the ball.