Why Tavon Wilson is on the mind

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
2:40
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With 53 players on an active roster, and eight more on a practice squad, it's easy for some to slip through the cracks from a media perspective.

Along those lines, second-year safety Tavon Wilson is on the mind today.

It started with Bill Belichick's morning news conference and his "below-the-line" level discussion, which got me thinking of players who might fall into the category of those looking to dig themselves out of that type of situation. Running back Stevan Ridley is an obvious choice.

Wilson, a 2012 second-round draft choice out of Illinois, is another as he's fallen off the radar on defense.

Consider that Wilson was charted on the field for 473 defensive snaps in his rookie season. This year, he's been charted on the field for five defensive snaps.

It is often said that the jump from the first to second season is one where the greatest rate of improvement is seen, but that hasn't happened in this case.

Last year, some of Wilson's greatest struggles came against the deep ball when playing more of a traditional safety role. Long pass plays against the Seahawks and Rams, which came on similar routes in which he was part of coverage beaten over the top, produced touchdowns. He's never truly been called upon in that role since.

This year, Wilson finds himself fourth on the safety depth chart, behind starters Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, as well as 2013 third-round pick Duron Harmon. At 6-foot and 215 pounds, he is the team's biggest safety and seems to have more of a linebacker-type skill set. He has played a linebacker-type role in the dime defense in the past, but even that's been limited this year.

Wilson's primary contributions now come on special teams and in the locker room, where it's clear that he's well-liked and a team-first player.

But the defensive breakthrough the team hoped for after making him a surprise second-round pick in 2012 hasn't happened.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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