Fans of both the New England Patriots and New York Jets entered the 2021 NFL season with plenty of optimism after each team drafted a quarterback in the first round of the draft.
The Jets held the No. 2 overall pick and selected BYU star Zach Wilson. The Patriots took Alabama's Mac Jones, fresh off a national title, with the No. 15 pick.
These rookie quarterbacks will square off for the first time Sunday when the Jets host the rival Patriots for a Week 2 game at MetLife Stadium.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's defenses have historically fared extremely well against rookie QBs, but his players know that Wilson has plenty of talent and cannot be overlooked.
"He's got a cannon," Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower told reporters Thursday. "He stays in the pocket and takes shots. You can definitely tell that the guys around him believe in him and believe in what he's able to do. I think he definitely showed toward the end of (the Week 1 game) taking advantage of taking some of those shots downfield that maybe Carolina was trying to be more aggressive on.
"Those are things (that show) why he got drafted as high as he did. He gave those guys a shot to win at the end of the game."
One of Wilson's best strengths is his ability to throw with power and accuracy while running outside of the pocket. He displayed that skill on his first career touchdown pass last week.
Hightower also said it's "really hard" to defend quarterbacks whose arm talent doesn't decrease very much (if at all) when they're on the move.
The Patriots will definitely have to be aware of Wilson's ability to throw on the run Sunday afternoon. Even if the pocket collapses and Wilson is under pressure, he still has the mobility to escape the rush and the throwing power/accuracy to pick up huge chunks of yards down field.