David Wilson is one of the true wild-cards for the New York Giants in 2014. The 2012 first-round pick has electrifying speed, but has yet to establish himself as an NFL running back. The Giants are waiting not only for that, but for Wilson to be cleared to resume play after an offseason spinal fusion to fix a herniated disc. Let's take a closer look at Wilson as we continue our series of player-player-profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2013 Season In Review
Disaster. That is the word that comes to mind when thinking about Wilson's 2013 season. The Giants handed Wilson the No. 1 running back job by letting Ahmad Bradshaw go in the offseason, and Wilson was not up to the task. He messed up a screen pass that was intercepted by Demarcus Ware on the first offensive play of the season, then fumbled twice in that game.By the end of that game, Da'Rel Scott was playing and Wilson was not.
Things never really got better for Wilson. He played in only five games before suffering his neck injury against the Philadelphia Eagles and ending up on injured reserve. He carried 44 times for 146 yards, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Wilson, as Giants fans know, ending up having career-threatening neck surgery. While the Giants expect him to be cleared for training camp, that has yet to happen.
2014 Season Outlook
Unpredictable. We offered a one-word description for last season, so let's do the same for what to expect in this one. It is impossible to predict what the Giants might get from Wilson this season. Let's try, though.
First and foremost, Wilson has to be cleared to play. He is reportedly having his neck examined on Monday, and the Giants have said they believe he will be cleared at that time. If he gets that clearance, then the Giants can begin figuring out how he fits in their new offense. If he doesn't, then you have to wonder if he fits at all.
Giants co-owner John Mara said Thursday the Giants expect Wilson to play.
Mara on D Wilson: "We expect him to be playing ... all signs are he'll be ready to go."— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) July 17, 2014
Assuming Wilson gets that clearance, there is no guarantee that the Giants will look at Wilson as a major factor in their offense. They moved on this offseason as though Wilson would not be around in 2014, signing free agent Rashad Jennings to be the lead back and drafting workhorse Andre Williams to be part of their running back rotation.
Wilson? There is no doubt the Giants would like to capitalize on his speed and big-play potential, but how will they do that? You can see Wilson as a third-down back catching short passes, or coming in games with packages of plays designed to try to get him into space. The difficulty with using him as primarily a pass-catcher is that he has yet to really prove reliable in that role, and neck surgery won't make his suspect pass blocking any better. Still, Wilson has that breathtaking speed and ability to electrify a crowd and change a game and you have to figure the Giants will search for the right situations to give him opportunities. He can be a difference-maker in the right role.
Giants fans know Wilson is an excellent kickoff returner, averaging 26.6 yards on 66 returns over two seasons. The Giants have Quintin Demps, Trindon Holliday and maybe even first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. as possible kickoff returners, and you wonder if they would want to expose Wilson to the type of hits he might take on kickoff returns.
How the Giants incorporate Wilson, and whether or not he can perform well enough to erase the nagging idea that the Giants might have wasted a first-round pick when they took him, remain to be seen. Wilson's progress will undoubtedly be one of the interesting story lines of the upcoming season.
[E-mail Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org]