- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Two years ago, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride were in a pinch at wide receiver.
The Giants also had a flashy, unproven receiver in Victor Cruz. One year earlier, he scored three touchdowns in a preseason game against the Jets, then spent most of the regular season on injured reserve. His most notable moments early in 2011 were a drop in the opener at Washington and catching a tongue-lashing from Gilbride during a preseason game for not running a precise route.
The Giants opted to ultimately trust Cruz in a Week 3 matchup at Philadelphia. They had little choice. The rest is history: Cruz torched the Eagles for three receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns -– including a 74-yard score –- and a salsa-dancing star was born.
Now it's time again for Coughlin and Gilbride to trust another young, unproven player with the kind of explosive skill set that can elevate the Giants' offense.
It's time for Coughlin to put aside his worries and concerns and give the ball to second-year running back David Wilson.
At 0-2, the Giants can't afford to wait. The running game has managed a total of 73 yards in two games, including just 23 yards in a loss to Denver on Sunday. The offense has become one-dimensional. Eli Manning and his receivers need a running game to open things up and bring play-action back into the mix.
It's obviously easier said than done, since the offensive line needs to start opening up holes. But what do the Giants have to lose by giving Wilson a shot? They've already turned the ball over 10 times, thanks in large part to Manning's league-high seven interceptions.
It's understandable why Coughlin benched Wilson after the two fumbles in the opener at Dallas. But Wilson appears to have learned his lesson. Last Sunday, he went out of his way to protect the football as if he had two arms wrapped around a Fabergé egg.
There's only one way to build Wilson's confidence -- and the coaches' confidence in him -- and that's to give him more than the seven carries he has received in each of the first two games. General manager Jerry Reese said before the season that Wilson can carry the load. Against Denver, though, Wilson received 24 snaps while Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott played a combined 53 snaps.
Right now, Wilson has as much rhythm running the ball as NBA coach Mark Madsen has on a dance floor. But a home run hitter can't hit one out of the park if he isn't getting any at-bats.
Cruz, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, used to draw the wrath of the coaches for drops, route running and even ball security. But the Giants also knew they couldn't afford to keep his playmaking abilities off the field.
"It was tough," Cruz said of earning the trust of the coaching staff. "It took time for me to know what I am doing out there on the practice field [and] for them to have the trust in me to relay it over during game time. It is going to take that for [Wilson], practice over and over, understanding what he has and learning from his mistakes on game day and applying it on the game field."
"But David has got a little more leeway than I had coming in," Cruz said of Wilson, a first-round pick in 2012. "They have invested some time in him. They are going to give him a couple more opportunities, which is what he needs and what we need as a team for him to build some confidence to be that big-play guy that we know he can be."
The Giants are simply going to be more dangerous with Wilson's warp-drive speed on the field than without it, even if it means using him as a decoy.
"I think you can find ways to give him the ball and get him in the open field," Manning said. "I think we'll try to do that and use him somewhat differently, but he's still the running back. He's going to have to get handoffs."
If Wilson can't protect Manning, then by all means use Jacobs or Scott on passing downs. But find a way to get Wilson on the field, even if it might mean putting him alongside blocking back Henry Hynoski or tight end Bear Pascoe in the backfield on some passing plays.
"[Defenses] understand that he is a big-play threat," Cruz said of Wilson. "At any given time, he can rip out a long run or a touchdown. It keeps the defenses honest, keeps the linebackers close, which in turn [allows us to use] play action and make the big play behind them.
"We need to get him out there," Cruz added. "We need some touchdowns, some big plays in order to have good balance."
If Coughlin wants to go with Jacobs near the goal line, that's fine. But it's time to stop keeping one of the team's most dangerous weapons on the sideline. It's time to unleash another playmaker in a another pivotal Week 3 game.
And who knows? Perhaps another Giants star will be born and Wilson will be doing backflips in the end zone instead of Coughlin flipping out again over a lack of a rushing attack.