Panthers’ Adam Thielen gives Jets backup Zach Wilson advice: ‘Just go prove it’

Adam Thielen

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The New York Jets enjoyed a preseason shutout victory over the Carolina Panthers over the weekend in Charlotte. 

Jets backup quarterback Zach Wilson had a solid showing, completing 14 of 20 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown. Earlier this offseason, New York pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers

The move meant Wilson would be the backup on the depth chart.

Since Rodgers joined the Jets, he has shown a willingness to take on a mentor’s role. Wilson’s performance in the first preseason game could be evidence Rodgers’ guidance is starting to pay off.

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Adam Thielen looks on prior to a Panthers preseason game

Adam Thielen of the Carolina Panthers prior to a preseason game against the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium Aug. 12, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

While the majority of players retired to the locker room, first-year Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen delivered some advice to the young Jets quarterback.

“Go have some fun this year,” Thielen said during a recent episode of “Hard Knocks.”

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The two-time Pro Bowler also encouraged Wilson to block out the noise.

“Stay in it, man. Don’t let other people say who you are. Just go and fricken prove it. You’re a [heck] of a player. Just believe it. I know it’s tough, man. This league’s tough, man. This league’s tough. But you just gotta fricken go prove it every day. Every day in practice. Every day, fricken when you get a chance, just go prove it. You don’t have to talk about it.”

Zach Wilson rolls out during a Jets preseason game

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets rolls out and throws for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter of a preseason game at Bank of America Stadium Aug. 12, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Wilson had a memorable moment against the Panthers in 2021, when he got his first career start. Wilson’s tenure with the Jets has been turbulent, but the 2021 first-round draft pick is likely trying to focus on the present as he works to improve.

“Do one thing for me today,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich told Wilson before the game.

“All I ask for is one thing. That you f—ing smile. Every f—ing play. Take a deep breath and smile. Soak this f—er in. You’ve earned the right to play well, and enjoy it, too,” Ulbrich said during a “Hard Knocks” episode.

Zach Wilson prepares to snap the ball

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets prepares for a snap during the second quarter of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium Aug. 12, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Wilson also managed to lure Panthers defenders into the neutral zone with a hard count during the preseason contest. But the referees blew the whistle instead of giving Wilson the opportunity to throw the ball down field during a free play.

“Let him go, let him go,” Rodgers said on the sideline as the play was blown dead.

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The Jets host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aug. 19.

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