Fantasy? No, Wilson's eager to be real deal
September, 5, 2013
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- David Wilson sees it on Twitter all day, but he swears he doesn't know what it means. People will tweet at the New York Giants' second-year running back, saying they just drafted him to their fantasy teams and are expecting a breakout year. He takes it as a compliment, but he says he knows nothing about fantasy football.
"I know you get points if you play well, right?" Wilson said Thursday when asked about his status as one of fantasy football's hot preseason draft commodities. "That's pretty much all I know."
Which is fine by the Giants, who'd love it if Wilson became the breakout 2013 star the fantasy community seems to expect him to be. With Ahmad Bradshaw in Indianapolis and Andre Brown out at least eight weeks with a broken leg, Wilson has become The Man in the Giants' running game and the player on whom the spotlight is shining most brightly as Sunday night's season opener in Dallas approaches.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Wednesday that more would be expected of Wilson this year than was originally planned.
"I've got no problem with that," Wilson said, a smile spreading across his face.
He has great confidence, this 22-year-old cherry-bomb-on-wheels the Giants drafted in the first round in 2012, but he seems to know how to wield it. He doesn't mind answering questions about himself, but he's a bit unusual among pro athletes in that he seems to think before he answers, rather that spit out the sound bite. Across the room, rookie tackle Justin Pugh sounds like he's reading from The Young Athlete's Guide to Saying Nothing. Wilson seems to ingest the question and decide how to proceed with it.
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsDavid Wilson outraced the Jets on an 84-yard TD run in Week 3 of the preseason. Was it a sign of things to come in 2013?
Sometimes he proclaims himself capable of leaping tall buildings. Other times it looks as though he's thinking, "I could tell them how good I am, but maybe it's best not to say that right now. Maybe I'll tell them another time. Or maybe I'll just wait for them to find out by watching."
Watch we will, because the Giants are eager to give Wilson the ball and he's eager to take it. They remain a pass-first offense with Eli Manning throwing to Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but the Giants crave offensive balance, and Wilson offers them a dream scenario -- a back who, if he's reliable, could enable them to reach their big-play goals without having to throw the ball to do it.
"I think anyone who's watched him run sees that," Giants guard Chris Snee said. "He's got special ability. Speed, power, the whole thing. He gives us a real threat."
Wilson knows this about himself. Again, confidence. Guy's got it in buckets. What Wilson didn't know about himself two months ago -- and what the Giants didn't know about him then either -- was whether he'd improve enough as a pass-blocker for the team to trust him on every down. Brown was getting the third-down work before his injury, since he had more experience with the protection schemes.
The issue with Wilson and pass blocking isn't and never was willingness or ability. The question was whether he could master the intricacies of the Giants' blocking schemes. Bradshaw set a high bar with his ability to pick up the blitz. The Giants are concerned about making up for his proficiency in that part of the game, and any back, Wilson included, needs more than two offseasons and a season to approach Bradshaw's level.
Since Brown's injury, you've been hearing a lot of this from the Giants' coaching staff about Wilson:
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDavid Wilson scored six times as a rookie, averaging 37.3 yards per TD -- and grabbing headlines with his celebratory flips.
"I think he's really made a determined effort to be an effective blocker," Gilbride said. "He has shown a willingness to go after people and be aggressive. He's done a tremendous job with what we call chipping, where he's looking to help and he sees a lineman and he's stroked him pretty good before releasing into the passing game. Of all the things he's done this preseason, he's shown a realization of how important that aspect of the game is for us."
Which is great, but you have to wonder where a coaching staff that was using only Brown and never Wilson on passing downs two weeks ago really is with this. Are the Giants' coaches talking themselves into Wilson as a sufficient pass-blocker? Or has he really shown sufficient improvement in that area? It's not crazy to think he has. He wants to. And if he's been paying attention in meetings and practicing his technique, there's nothing to say he's not much better and more trustworthy in that area than he was last year, or last month or even last week.
"I feel like I'm much more comfortable with it," Wilson said. "I don't think it's an issue for me at all. Everybody knows, to play running back in this league you have to be able to help protect the quarterback. When I have the ball in my hands, I want to contribute, but when I don't have the ball in my hands, I want to contribute then, too."
Music to the Giants' ears, because they want him in the game as much as possible, and if he's not a liability as a pass-blocker, that allows them to use him more and maximize his talents as a runner. Which is the goal, because in real football -- just as in fantasy -- the better you play, the more points you get.