David Wilson: Why the Rookie Running Back's List of Goals Is Way out of Reach
When Wilson was asked about his list in early August, he admitted that he hadn’t made it yet, but he promised that his goals “will not be easy to obtain” (via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk).
His goals had been pretty optimistic in the past. For his final season at Virginia Tech, Wilson’s goals included 100 rushing yards and a touchdown in every game, in addition to earning All-ACC and All-American honors. The incredible part is that despite how hard to reach his goals always are, Wilson claims that he usually achieves about 75-80 percent of them each year, according to Youngmisuk.
On Saturday afternoon, just four days before the season opener, the rookie running back released his goals for the 2012 season, his first as a New York Giant—and let’s just say, if Wilson achieves 75 percent of his goals this season, a lot of Giants fans will be very happy campers.
- Average 5.0 yards per carry
- Score at least 10 touchdowns
- Have at least six 100-yard games
- Allow no sacks on his behalf
- No fumbles
- Have at least one play of 20 yards (presumably per game)
Wilson obviously has some high expectations of himself, but it’s hard not to like his confidence. Looking at the situation realistically, though, we begin to wonder if these goals are really within the back’s reach.
I definitely believe that Wilson has the talent and athleticism to meet these goals if he were running under the perfect conditions. However, I can think of a few things that might get in his way in 2012.
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Wilson may be the Giant’s running back of the future, but as of right now, the team still belongs to Ahmad Bradshaw.
Granted, Bradshaw does have an extensive injury history—he’s actually nursing a minor hand issue already—but assuming that he’s healthy, he’ll be the man to carry the load.
And we know that because that’s pretty much the way it’s been since 2010 when Bradshaw surpassed Brandon Jacobs and became the team’s full-time starter. Since then, his tough running and hard-working attitude have made him a staple in the Giants offense.
After all, the list associated with Bradshaw, the franchise’s all-time rushing list, bears a bit more weight than Wilson’s list of goals. Bradshaw’s 3,217 rushing yards ranks 10th on that list, but it’s not just his statistics that make him so valuable to the team.
Unlike Wilson, no one wanted to anoint Bradshaw the starter in his rookie year. He was a seventh-round draft pick out of Marshall in 2007, and he worked his way up from there.
After three years as a backup on offense and a kick returner on special teams, Bradshaw’s talent finally became too difficult to ignore. His hard-nosed running style and blue-collar work ethic earned him more and more carries, eventually forcing the team to make him the full-time starter.
The most important aspect to Bradshaw’s ascension to the starting role was his ability to minimize mistakes. He has proven to be one of the league’s most efficient pass-blockers out of the backfield, and in 2011, Bradshaw posted a career-low one fumble.
In order to reach most of his goals, Wilson will need a lot of touches. But those will be tough to wrestle away from Bradshaw, who has worked so hard throughout his career to earn them.
A Suspect Offensive Line
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If Wilson wants to come close to attaining any of his goals, he’ll need a strong push up front—something that he probably won’t find in New York this season.
The Giants won the Super Bowl last year despite posting league-low totals on the ground. A lot of the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the team’s inconsistent offensive line.
Given the fact that the Giants had the NFL’s worst rushing attack in 2011, one would assume that they have nowhere to go but up. However, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that things are only getting worse for New York’s big bodies along the O-line.
David Diehl, who was atrocious at both left guard and left tackle a season ago, will start again for the Giants in 2012; only this time, he’ll be shifted to the opposite side. The Giants think they can hide Diehl’s insufficient play by lining him up at right tackle as far away as possible from Manning’s blindside.
The left tackle position is puzzling, and the coaching staff is scrambling for an answer. Will Beatty was supposed to hold down the spot this season, but back issues have forced him out of action more than the team had ever anticipated. His backup, Sean Locklear, was once a solid offensive tackle for the Seahawks, but in 2011, he only managed to start four games for the lowly Redskins.
The interior line, whose primary job is to create enough space for the running backs, is in just as much question. Center David Baas struggled in his first season as a Giant, but looks to bounce back in 2012. Left guard Kevin Boothe was a backup for most of 2011, but now, he’s being counted on as a starter.
Lastly, right guard Chris Snee, who was once a unanimous All-Pro, has struggled to hold his own as of late.
With Wilson running behind this unit, his goals will be nearly impossible to obtain. He’ll need to make the most of his opportunities, hitting every hole hard and fighting for every extra yard.
Rookie Mistakes Are Unavoidable
You have to admire the standards Wilson has set for himself, but at the same time, you must realize that he may have set the bar a bit too high.
As a rookie, there are things about playing in the NFL that Wilson just hasn’t had the opportunity to learn yet. Earlier in the summer, when everyone was first blown away by Wilson’s speed and explosion, Bradshaw mentioned that there are aspects of the game that he has yet to pick up.
One of the aspects Wilson needs to understand is the danger of fighting for extra yards.
As I mentioned in the previous slide, if Wilson wants to reach his yardage and touchdown goals, it’ll take a lot of individual effort. He’ll have to battle through a lot of contact at—or behind—the line of scrimmage, and when he gets wrapped up, Wilson will have to keep his legs churning and always be reaching forward.
Fighting for an extra yard may make a difference in some pivotal third-down situations, but it becomes detrimental to the team when that fight puts the ball and the running back’s health in peril. I’m willing to bet that Wilson, who will try to capitalize on plenty of second efforts, will make more than one rookie ball-handling mistake in 2012.
The Giants must trust Wilson’s ability to protect Manning considering the fact that they cut D.J. Ware, a reliable back in pass protection, on Friday. But let’s be honest, to go all season without giving up a sack is highly unlikely.
No matter how much Wilson studies film, he’s almost guaranteed to see something in a game that he’s never had a chance to prepare for in practice. Pass-rushes are becoming more and more complicated by the year, and considering the fact that the Giants will face a Rob Ryan-led Cowboys defense that is notorious for the complexity of its blitzing schemes twice, Wilson will surely have his work cut out for him during his rookie season.
I’m glad Wilson created this list of goals; they should keep him motivated to play hard all season. I’m not saying he should lower his expectations, but I am saying that, given the Giants’ current situation on offense combined with Wilson’s inexperience, there’s no way he meets all of his goals—or even the 75 percent that he says he usually achieves.