CHARLOTTE — Zach Wilson began his Jets career here two years ago, making his first NFL start against the Panthers.
On Saturday, he returned for the next step of trying to get his career back on track.
Wilson played the entire first half of the Jets’ preseason game with the Panthers, overseeing six series.
He did not have any spectacular throws in this one, but also did not have any big blunders.
Wilson completed 14-of-20 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson threw the ball mostly to running backs and tight ends.
Only two of his 14 completions were to wide receivers.
His touchdown was a 2-yard toss to tight end Kenny Yeboah, who was wide open.
The score was set up by a 27-yard run by rookie Israel Abanikanda.
It was another positive step for Wilson, who is learning to be a backup behind Aaron Rodgers.
The Jets put together a 13-play drive to start the game, but had to settle for a 47-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein after a penalty stalled the drive.
Wilson looked fine on the drive. He completed 4-of-6 passes on the drive for 40 yards.
He threw mostly short passes.
He did take one shot into the end zone from the 23 to Mecole Hardman but the pass was broken up.
Jets center Connor McGovern was penalized for tripping on the play and that killed the drive.
On third-and-17, Wilson threw an incompletion to Tyler Conklin.
He took an extra hitch and misfired on the throw.
The second drive featured running backs Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight.
The drive stopped after Wilson sailed a short pass high to Knight on third-and-2 and the ball went off Knight’s outstretched hands.
The Jets took out their starting offensive line, tight ends, running backs and wide receivers on their third series but left Wilson in. You could see the backups on the line struggling.
Wilson was under pressure on a first down incompletion to Malik Taylor and then was sacked on third down when outside linebacker Amare Barno split the left side of the Jets line of tackle Mekhi Becton and guard Trystan Colon.
A holding penalty killed the Jets’ next drive.
Wilson found Abanikanda for a long 25-yard gain on a screen pass on the fifth drive. He also had a nice 15-yard gain to tight end Jeremy Ruckert on a rollout.
The protection was not great on third down, though and he had an incompletion intended for Jason Brownlee to end the drive.
Zuerlein kicked another field goal to put the Jets up 6-0.
The Jets played more offensive starters and expected contributors in this game than the preseason opener against the Browns in the Hall of Fame Game.
The only offensive starters who did not play were quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, wide receiver Randall Cobb and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
The Jets backup defense performed well against the Panthers starting offense.
The Panthers started rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
He was unable to get anything going, completing 4-of-6 passing for 21 yards.
It was an interesting decision by Jets coach Robert Saleh to play most of the players either expected to start on the offensive line or fighting for starting spots.
Vera-Tucker was the only healthy offensive lineman not playing.
Saleh may have wanted to get the group more work after a tough practice against the Panthers on Wednesday that saw the line give up a lot of pressure.
Billy Turner started at left tackle and Max Mitchell started at right tackle.
Wes Schweitzer started in place of Vera-Tucker and could be the candidate to start at right guard if the Jets kick Vera-Tucker out to tackle.
The Jets also played Carter and Knight who are fighting for the No. 2 running back spot behind Breece Hall and trying to convince Jets management they don’t need to add Dalvin Cook.
Carter had four rushes for 19 yards and two catches for 34 yards. Knight had four rushes for 13 yards and one catch for three yards.
The Jets now return to New Jersey where they will have joint practices with the Buccaneers this week before playing Tampa Bay at MetLife Stadium on Saturday.