Garrett Wilson rose up through traffic for the pass, stretched out for the ball and couldn’t squeeze it.
It would’ve been a terrific catch, but that didn’t dull the rookie wide receiver’s disappointment with himself. He was clearly unhappy that he couldn’t bring the ball down. It didn’t matter that this was practice early in his first NFL training camp or that he had already made some eye-popping plays during the workout.
“I hold myself to a really high standard. I like to think of myself as making those plays,” the former Ohio State standout said. “I feel like I am close, but honestly I feel like I should be there right now. I should be making those plays right now. Until I am making those plays, I’m not going to be happy with myself.”
Wilson knows there is a balance, between expecting a lot from himself and not allowing his own frustration to linger. He has already been reminded of that by veteran teammates. But the perfectionist in him has also gotten him pretty far, as a first-round pick (10th overall) who carries high expectations into his first season. It’s what pushed him to being a five-star recruit and one of the premier receivers in college football last season.
“I feel like that’s taken me a long way, so I don’t want to lose that,” Wilson said.
He added: “I don’t want to beat myself up too hard, but I know what I’m capable of. Every time that Zach [Wilson] trusts me to make a play and you don’t make it, you don’t want to leave that up in the air. You don’t know when the next ball is coming back to you.”
The 6-foot Wilson opened eyes during his first week of camp, impressing his new team with his body control, athleticism and precision in and out of his breaks. The Jets envision him fitting in well with a strong wide receiver corps that includes veteran Corey Davis, second-year receiver Elijah Moore and slot man Braxton Berrios. He recently attended a three-day trip to Idaho with several of the Jets’ skill-position players and quarterbacks Wilson and Joe Flacco, a bonding and workout excursion he thinks helped prepare him for training camp.
“A lot of them dropped a lot of nuggets on me,” he said. “I was trying to make sure I was a sponge on the whole trip. But also, build my chemistry with Zach and Joe, and the other receivers.”
He’s getting tested early in camp by going up against fellow first-round pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and veteran newcomer D.J. Reed. Once September comes around, there will be adjustments to make, facing quicker, bigger and more talented defensive backs than he faced in college. Thus far, the mental side of the game is what Wilson is focused on the most.
“Those pre-snap thoughts, you’re thinking about the play, but also you got to think about how you want to beat this really good corner, NFL corner, across from you,” he said. “If you’re overthinking the play, you may miss a step and get [tied] up at the line. You got to find that balance between having a plan going into the snap, but also knowing what your job is and how to execute. I feel like that’s been the biggest thing for me.”
Monday will be another first for Wilson — his first NFL practice with pads. That will be different from the first week of camp, when the Jets only practice in shells. Wilson smiled when he was asked what he envisions that to be like.
“I’m expecting there to be bullets flying out there,” he joked. “It’s some great athletes out there, some big dudes. When the pads go on, the energy turns up. I’m excited to be a part of it and put my best foot forward on Monday, for sure. That’s when it really starts.”