FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- They went to the beach, played two rounds of golf and caught a Kygo performance at the Miami Ultra Music Festival. For quarterback Zach Wilson, it was a nice taste of Miami, courtesy of his host and New York Jets teammate, Braxton Berrios.
Call it: Weekend at Braxton's.
The real purpose, though, was football. Passing. Catching. Route running. Conditioning. They did it all, with running back Michael Carter joining them for one of the days.
It was another stop on Wilson's barnstorming tour across the country. Before that, he was in Nashville to work out with wide receiver Corey Davis. Next week, he heads to Arizona to train with a small group of receivers, including Elijah Moore.
In the Age of Amazon, where pretty much anything can be sent to your front door, Wilson is delivering ... well, himself, adding a new twist to a familiar theme. It's common in the NFL for quarterbacks and skill players to gather for informal workouts in the offseason, usually near the quarterback's home. Wilson decided to take the show on the road, adding a personal touch.
"He's willing to do whatever it takes," Berrios said in a phone interview. "It's easy to say that, but it's another thing when you take the time out of your offseason training schedule to actually travel to different places. He's doing everything to get everyone on the same page and making a real change next year."
Path to success starts well before week 1! https://t.co/i8sYyiz6eC— Zachary Wilson (@ZachWilson) March 22, 2022
After the season, Wilson sat down with his personal coach, former NFL quarterback John Beck, to plan an itinerary. One of his goals was to build on-field chemistry and off-field camaraderie with teammates. So Wilson, who lives in Utah, booked Zach Across America, bringing a few footballs along on the journey.
"As we were setting the offseason, he said, 'I want to make it a priority to throw with my guys, to build as much as I possibly can throwing with them,'" said Beck, who spent the second half of the season on the Jets' coaching staff as an offensive assistant.
Wilson truly is a jet quarterback, and coach Robert Saleh loves it.
"I’ve been joking around here that he’s been on tour, just visiting his teammates," Saleh said. "It’s cool that he’s putting in the work, and it’s showing that he’s putting in the work. It’s going to be good when they all get back."
Wilson, drafted second overall last year, struggled through most of his rookie year. He went 3-10 as the starter, with nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 55.6 completion percentage. It wasn't pretty, but he finished with no interceptions over the final five games, fueling optimism.
Saleh said he would "love to see Zach own the playbook at a faster clip." You learn by doing, and Wilson is doing it with his teammates in small throwing sessions.
"Every route we run, we get to talk about it -- the concept and the objective," Berrios said. "It's not just a three-step slant or a 10-yard in-cut. It's our terminology. We're lining up in our formations and we're going through mental reps that will carry over into OTAs, into training camp and into the season as well.
"It's a huge advantage and we were able to be very detailed in our approach in what we were trying to work on each day."
Berrios, a University of Miami graduate, arranged to use his former school's practice field. They hit it for two days. The benefit of a small group, he said, was that it allowed them to dissect each rep in-depth. It was the same way in Nashville, where he had a one-on-one session with Davis.
"You can tell, it's going to be a different animal coming into OTAs than it was obviously when he was thrown into the fire last May with a new playbook and all different terminology," said Berrios, one of Wilson's closest friends on the team. "It's going to be a different world for him."
Aside from X's and O's, the workouts allow Wilson to learn the "subtleties of route running," Beck said.
"I almost look at it as kind of like basketball," Beck said. "You learn the person’s body cues. You start to see their indicators, certain indicators on when they’re going to put their foot in the ground and make a break. Certain indicators on when they run their choice routes. Certain indictors of angles they take. You learn that with them."
On Monday, Wilson will be in Scottsdale, Arizona for two days of on-field workouts. In addition to Moore, he could be joined by receivers Jeff Smith, Denzel Mims and D.J. Montgomery. Beck will supervise. Beck and Wilson will be in the area to participate in Steve Young's charity golf tournament. All three quarterbacks attended BYU and have remained close.
Wilson, who has a growing passion for golf, incorporated a few rounds into his travel schedule. There has to be some leisurely activity, right? As Berrios said, "Our weekend was fun. We jammed it up pretty well and we had a good time. I showed him a little bit of Miami."
The Jets' offseason program begins April 18, with practices starting in May and continuing to mid-June. This is a critical season for Wilson, whose development is the key to the franchise's present and long-term future. His physical talent is obvious, but there's more to quarterback than highlight-film throws and runs. They're looking for improvement from a cerebral standpoint.
"It was a typical rookie learning curve; now we’re really looking for that recall," Saleh said. "The fundamentals and all the stuff we’re looking for, that’s all going to come. For OTAs, we’re really looking for him to take that step in the right direction with regard to the playbook. It's Football 101, absorbing the scheme so he can play a lot faster."