After an offseason of building expectations and the hope that Aaron Rodgers can help take him to the next level, the first test of what Garrett Wilson wants to be a sophomore season that surpasses his rookie year has arrived.
The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year figures to spend much of the Jets’ opener on Monday night matched up against Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, a former All-Pro who is healthy and at full strength after he missed parts of the last two seasons with an ACL tear.
Forgetting for a moment the massive stakes of the game for the franchise and the hoopla surrounding Rodgers’ debut, facing White is no small ask.
Wilson, after all, remembers watching White tear it up at LSU while he was in middle school.
“He’s got a great energy, makes playing football fun,” Wilson said. “We get to talk back and forth and it’s really like we out on the practice field when I’m going with Tre White. He’s a really cool dude. And I like going up against him, but obviously, they have a great scheme over there and he does his job really well. Anytime I get to go up against him, it’s fun, man.”
The two have matched up just once before, when the Bills beat the Jets last December in White’s third game back from the ACL tear. Wilson could count himself the winner that day after he caught six of seven targets for 78 yards from Mike White.
“We kinda chopped it up before [the game],” Wilson said. “I don’t know him. But I feel like we do.”
Like the Jets as a whole, the anticipation surrounding Wilson’s season has reached a boiling point ahead of Monday. That is what happens when you add Rodgers to an all-world talent who caught 83 balls for 1,103 yards as a rookie, with four different quarterbacks taking a turn throwing to him.
Wilson’s debut a year ago was relatively quiet — four receptions on eight targets for 52 yards. The next week, he nearly doubled the output, with eight catches, 102 yards and two touchdowns and then he was off and running.
Now, his preseason has been dotted with Davante Adams comparisons and musings about how high his ceiling can reach with Rodgers feeding him.
“The thing that’s impressed me most … it’s his natural fluidity within the game of just how to run routes, the timing of things, understanding leverage and how to break corners off and everything,” Jets wideout Allen Lazard told The Post. “Really the thing that has blown me away the most is his ability to catch the ball and finish.
“I think it’s one thing to be able to get open, it’s another thing to be able to catch the ball. But to be able to catch the ball and then do something after with it, I think that’s — to me — what separates a lot of receivers in the league [from] like the top five, 10 guys.”
Lazard said Wilson is a 23-year-old who carries an uncommon level of detail in his game for a second-year player in the NFL — which should mesh well with a quarterback who has demanded everyone around Florham Park rise to his level of football understanding.
“Teams eventually will definitely cloud his side, double coverage him,” Lazard said. “Especially when you have Aaron back there being able to throw the ball with precision. So I’m OK with it, cause that means it’ll probably get a one-on-one matchup with me. Hopefully, they’re dumb enough to go man the whole game and we can just eat.”
Wilson, for his part, strayed away from placing any expectations on his season. But an undercurrent of confidence still rippled through his words.
“If the ball comes my way, I’m gonna make the play,” he said. “Aaron’s a great player. I trust where he goes with the ball. If it comes my way, I gotta make the play.”
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