Bears’ defense not sleeping on Jets QB Mike White
Though Zach Wilson is a former No. 2 pick, White’s promotion could invigorate a Jets offense that believes in him. “I can definitely tell you, they’re behind Mike White,” said Bears cornerback Lamar Jackson, a former Jet. “He’s one of those guys that’s very likable”
The Bears’ defense isn’t going to take Jets quarterback Mike White lightly. The last time he stepped in for Zach Wilson, he torched the Bengals for 405 yards and three touchdowns, outplaying Joe Burrow in a 34-31 victory last season at MetLife Stadium.
“He went crazy,” said Bears cornerback Lamar Jackson, who was on the Jets’ practice squad last year. “It gave us a lift and almost created a rift in the locker room. Because the second overall pick is in the locker room [Wilson], and your backup throws for 400 yards, and now we’re thinking, ‘Something’s gotta happen.’
“I’m confident he’ll step into that role and play the best he can play. But it’s still up to us to defeat them. It’s going to be us vs. them. But I’ve got respect for Mike.”
The respect that even former teammates such as Jackson have for White could make the Jets even more dangerous than they would have been with Wilson, who was benched by coach Robert Saleh despite a 5-2 record as a starter after a demoralizing performance in a 10-3 loss to the Patriots. Wilson completed 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards, with no interceptions or touchdown passes for a 50.8 passer rating.
Wilson caused some consternation within the Jets’ locker room when he was asked after Sunday’s game if he let the defense down and said, “No. No.” The lack of accountability didn’t factor into the decision, Saleh said, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an effect on the team.
That made sense to Jackson.
“I like Zach Wilson,’’ Jackson said, ‘‘but I can see comments about how he carries himself, a sense of arrogance. I could see how it could rub people the wrong way. When he’s good, he’s good, and when he’s bad, he’s bad. When you’re not the most likable guy, of course when things are bad, everybody’s going to have a problem with you.”
Wilson still is the future with the Jets, Saleh insisted Wednesday. But turning to White could invigorate the Jets in the short term — all circumstances considered.
“I can definitely tell you the locker room, they’re behind Mike White,” Jackson said. “He’s one of those guys that’s very likable. I know everybody’s going to be trying to buy in and help him succeed just [because of] the type of guy he is. I know he has good respect over there.
“Guys are going to help Mike White make it happen. They kind of know the situation. There ain’t no telling how they really feel about Zach. A guy steps in that’s been there . . . I’m sure they’re all going to play hard for him.”
Bears tight end Ryan Griffin, who played for the Jets last season and caught passes from Wilson and White, wasn’t going to get into that debate. But he also has a lot of respect for White.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Griffin said. “I wish him well — just not this week.”
Strategically, defending White is a little less complicated than defending against the more mobile Wilson.
“[Wilson] has the ability to escape — not to say Mike doesn’t,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “[Wilson] can move. He’s an athlete. He can do the keepers, a lot of things on the edge of the defense, whereas Mike is really good at passing. He’s more of a pocket guy.”
But against a struggling Bears defense that has put little pressure on quarterbacks and could be short-handed in the secondary with cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker in concussion protocol, a pocket passer is a threat.
“He’s pretty balanced: He never gets high, never gets low,” Jackson said. “I personally believe in him. I don’t think he’s just anybody. He’s got real potential and can make things happen.”