New York Jets QB Zach Wilson returns but admits knee still not 100%

HOUSTON -- After a sloppy return to the starting lineup, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson said Sunday that his right knee -- sprained five weeks ago -- still isn't 100%.

"It's not fully healed and we understand that, but I feel good to play -- and that's why I'm playing," the rookie said after a 21-14 victory over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. "I understand that. Sometimes it's going to shift and stretch a little bit, but there's no damage that can come from that. You just have to walk it off and move on."

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, suffered a second-degree posterior cruciate ligament sprain on Oct. 24. It was termed a two-to-four-week injury, with coach Robert Saleh saying the Jets wouldn't put him back on the field until he was "fully healthy" and mentally ready. Wilson said Wednesday he was "100% confident" in his ability to perform, but he opened up after the game, admitting the knee is "not fully stable" and that it got into his head on a fourth-quarter sack.

He aggravated the knee while trying to escape the pass rush, eventually running out of bounds on a third-down play. He limped to the sideline, where the Jets' team doctor talked to him. Backup Josh Johnson started warming up, but Wilson returned for the next series and the remainder of the game, later saying there was never a doubt that he'd be back.

Wilson said he should've thrown the ball away before taking the sack, but he admitted his knee was on his mind and "let it affect me" on that play.

"I had tweaked it [while scrambling] and my body just kind of shut down and I just kind of forgot about everything that was going out there because of it," he said. "I knew that happens sometimes, so I just have to throw the ball away."

Saleh didn't seem concerned by Wilson's knee, saying it "checked out fine." Wilson, who wore a brace, said there were a couple of times in the game when he tweaked it.

The Jets (3-9), who rallied from an 11-point deficit to snap a three-game losing streak, won because of their defense, which recorded five sacks. Wilson was frustrated with his performance -- 14-for-24, 145 yards and one interception.

The interception was a blooper play in which he scrambled and, just as he approached the line of scrimmage, flipped a forward pass to running back Ty Johnson, who wasn't expecting it. The ball hit him in the back and landed in the hands of linebacker Tavierre Thomas. It was Wilson's 10th interception in seven games.

That, too, might have been a play in which he was mindful of his knee. Wilson said "the seas parted and I stepped up. Rather than me running and getting blasted by somebody or trying to slide, I flipped it to my checkdown in front of me. ... It was one of those unfortunate things -- unlucky sometimes."

Later, in a goal-line situation, Wilson was aggressive on a zone read, keeping the ball and scoring from 4 yards to give the Jets an 18-14 lead with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the third quarter -- his first career rushing touchdown.

"He started off a little slow, but I'm not worried about him," rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore said of Wilson.

Wilson misfired on six of his first seven passes, sometimes using too much velocity on short passes. It continued a season-long trend of struggling in the first half of games -- zero touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

In four games without Wilson, the Jets averaged a league-high 436 total yards per game. That came to a quick halt, as they managed only 266 yards and two touchdown drives against the Texans (2-9).

"Obviously, there was a little rust there after a month, but I thought he managed the game well," Saleh said of Wilson.

Wilson was hard on himself. He was happy about the win, but seemed almost exasperated by his "ups and downs," as he called them. He refused to use the five-week layoff as an excuse.

"I'm going to keep getting better at it every week," he said, "but I'm just frustrated with myself as to why I'm just not letting it rip and playing efficiently like I have my whole entire life."