There is a reason the New York Giants drafted rookie running back David Wilson in the first round, and his explosive coming-out party on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints showcased his immense potential.
With the NFC East race so tight and various injuries that have hampered the offense, Wilson gives the defending Super Bowl champions an added dimension that should be more heavily utilized down the stretch.
The Saints were able to get on the board first, but the home-run threat Wilson provides helped the team to respond just seconds later. Wilson took a first-quarter kickoff and was the beneficiary of exceptional blocking, yet he showed the incredible speed that makes him such a game-changer in scoring a 97-yard touchdown.
Sloppy, rainy conditions at MetLife Stadium wouldn't seem to translate to an immense number of points for the Giants, but Wilson's play dispelled that notion. He became the first player in NFL history to have more than 200 kick-return yards and 100 rushing yards in a single game.
Afterward, Wilson indicated that head coach Tom Coughlin—who has had the first-year player in his doghouse ever since a fumble against the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener on his second career carry—told him to not worry about assignments and just "run fast."
Wilson certainly did that, and he managed to hit the 100-yard plateau on just 13 carries. A 52-yard scoring run was one of the many highlights in the 52-27 victory.
On that particular play, Wilson took a pitch to the left side, cut back and used that "run fast" advice that Coughlin gave him. The result was a touchdown—and a celebratory backflip to boot, which was only a further testament to Wilson's athleticism.
Thanks to that run, the Giants' official Twitter page pointed out more history Wilson had made:
RB David Wilson has set the franchise record for all-purpose yards in a game (327) #giantschat— New York Giants (@Giants) December 10, 2012
Typical starter Ahmad Bradshaw has struggled with injuries throughout his career and had to leave Sunday's game as well, although he did return. Andre Brown played well earlier in the year, most notably in a Thursday night game at Carolina, but he is on injured reserve.
That leaves Wilson to shoulder more of the offensive load moving forward. It appears that Hakeem Nicks is finally healthy, but a balanced attack is something that Eli Manning hasn't been the beneficiary of in recent years. In fact, the Giants won the Super Bowl last year despite ranking dead last in the league in yards per game on the ground.
The only caveat about Wilson's performance is that the Saints defense has been atrocious all year long. However, the unit was finally improving in recent weeks and held the Atlanta Falcons to 23 points in Week 13 despite five interceptions from Drew Brees.
It's also hard to tell if Wilson will continue to be the asset he was on special teams in averaging over 56 yards on four returns. New Orleans looked hapless in that aspect of the game all afternoon.
One thing is certain, though: New York needs to run the ball better to give itself the best chance of defending the Lombardi Trophy—and to win the NFC East divisional crown. The Saints did present an extremely favorable matchup, but Wilson was truly extraordinary.
It was about time that the Giants let him loose despite the knock on his pass-protection abilities. Almost by default, Coughlin did in Week 14, and Wilson's results speak for themselves.