If David Wilson Is an Improved Blocker, He Should Be New York Giants' No. 1 Back

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 19, 2013

Aug 7, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) calls out signals in front of running back David Wilson (22) during team practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

David Wilson flashed superstar-level speed Sunday night, but we already knew he possessed that

Wilson hit holes with impact and didn't dilly-dally behind the line of scrimmage, but we've seen that from him before.

He made guys miss as a runner and receiver accumulating yards after the catch, which is something Virginia Tech fans saw time and again during his time there.

He nearly broke Kelvin Sheppard's ankles on a sick cut at the sideline, but the guy has always been able to slice through defenses while making it look simple.

Only one of his eight carries on Sunday resulted in a loss of yardage, which is a good sign when you consider that he was often an all-or-nothing home run hitter during his rookie season with the New York Giants.

Most importantly, though, Wilson took care of business in the three situations in which he was tasked with protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

It's a small sample size, but on nine snaps in blitz pickup and/or as a pass-blocker thus far in the preseason, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has Wilson responsible for just a single hit on Manning.

He wasn't on the field for many passing downs and was usually a receiver anyway, but he was on the sideline when Manning threw his first-quarter interception as well as when the Giants offense gave up a 13-yard sack early in the second against Indianapolis. 

After the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, there were indications that Wilson was beginning to make some progress in the blocking department.

Coughlin, who has been Wilson's biggest blocking critic since last year, offered up a mixed but slightly promising review to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

The Giants don't look as though they're going to ditch that two-back system anytime soon, but by continuing to excel as a runner and receiver while avoiding having his name mentioned as a blocker, Wilson continues to score points in the battle for the lion's share of the work in that backfield. 

Coughlin and the rest of that coaching staff have to know that they can trust Wilson in situations like the one he was in against Atlanta last year, with Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown both sidelined.

Wilson was required to pick up Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on a Falcons blitz, but instead he was run over on a play that resulted in a turnover.

He still gets pushed around a bit, and we saw that on a Manning dropback in the second quarter against the Colts:

But from an assignment discipline standpoint, Wilson hasn't been a problem this August.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride told Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger that Wilson has to be "able to do all other things besides just running the ball."

It’s not just running the ball when you’re a running back in the National Football League. It’s about catching passes, it’s about blocking, it’s about being able to protect the quarterback. All those things are taken into consideration when you determine whether a guy gets playing time or not.

It's hard to become a star and live up to being a first-round pick at running back if you can't stay on the field consistently. Wilson doesn't have to carry it 20-plus times every Sunday, but he does have to earn the right to see the light of day on third downs.

Thus far in the preseason, it looks like he's earning the right to at least prove he can handle those snaps. 

“I’m trying to show I can be an every-down back, and there’s only one way to show it — get in there and do it,” Wilson told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “The coaches tell me that’s what they want to see, and I tell them that’s what I want to do.”

Slowly, he's getting on the right track.