Week 1 didn't go exactly as planned for New York Giants fans. Their team turned the ball over six times in a nationally televised embarrassment of a contest in which the Giants and Dallas Cowboys played hot potato with the win like they were trying to Frowney for Clowney.
Dallas eventually pulled out of AT&T Stadium with a 36-31 win, but only after Eli Manning added insult to his already catastrophic performance with a pick-six to Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr.
You may have noticed something about that play. Manning, under duress from an oncoming pass rush, attempted to dump the ball off to his running back. The back, Da'Rel Scott, failed to turn his head around for the dump-off and, in his split-second panic, deflected the ball right into the arms of a waiting Carr.
You may also have noticed that the running back's name wasn't David Wilson. The much-ballyhooed Giants running back wasn't out on that play because he was injured. Or because he was tired. Or because New York is more comfortable with Scott running its hurry-up offense.
The reason was simpler: sheer incompetence. Wilson received seven carries and gained 19 yards against Dallas. He fumbled on two of those attempts, both of which went into the arms of a waiting Cowboys player. He had the ball punched out on the team's second possession, one that came after Manning's first pick, and then gift-wrapped Dallas its first defensive touchdown on his first carry of the second half.
He wouldn't see the field again.
Tom Coughlin, whose face turns special shade of purple and who would probably rather give up his firstborn than the football, didn't mince words after the game.
“They’re not going to play unless they can hang onto the ball,” Coughlin said (h/t New York Daily News' George Willis). “It’s demoralizing to the whole team.”
Wilson, knowing that running backs often never see the light of day after such performances, tried putting a positive spin on things.
“It was a tough situation to be in,” Wilson said. “God never gives you more than you can handle. Everything happened for a reason. He can bring me through it. I just have to keep working hard. I’m at the bottom now. There’s nowhere to go but up.”
Now there are plenty of things we could examine in regard to Wilson's game. How it will affect the Giants going forward. How if the Giants don't have a consistent running game, they won't compete in a hotly contested NFC East.
None of that matters. We're here to examine the most important thing—what Wilson's performance means for your and my fantasy football team.
Whether you bought into the Wilson preseason hype is irrelevant. Wilson was going somewhere between the second and third rounds depending on where you gather data. And considering the late injury to Andre Brown, his value was only skyrocketing as we barreled toward opening night.
Just for the record, I wasn't a fan. David Baas and David Diehl were both injured in camp, forcing two new starters onto the line from the second-best run-blocking offensive line in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Kevin Boothe also had to make a shift from guard to center; there was going to be at least some initial adjusting necessary.
It's also been about three years since a Giants running back was worth where Wilson was going. Ask Eddie Lacy owners how they're feeling about the inane preseason hype that the Packers were going to start pounding the ball more. Teams with great quarterbacks are what they are.
All that being said, Wilson owners would probably be better off exhaling a bit. We're 60 minutes into the NFL season. A one-week sample size isn't enough to cut bait on a 10th-round pick, let alone to start wondering whether you made a complete mistake drafting Wilson altogether. If he's on your team—especially one with which a pack or two of delicious Skittles might be on the line—you're pot-committed.
That makes this situation merely one worth monitoring, not panicking about.
It's not like Scott did anything to earn himself the job. The 2011 seventh-round pick had 74 total yards on 10 touches, but being the dump-off target in a game in which Manning was trying to make downfield plays inflated those stats. Dallas played soft coverage for a good portion of the second half, making Scott's life a lot easier as both a pass-catcher and runner.
Coughlin may have liked what he saw in Scott enough to give him an increased role. It just doesn't seem likely that a guy who was barely holding onto his 53-man spot in camp would usurp Wilson, who was a first-round pick 16.5 months ago and has elite back potential.
Cris Collinsworth suggested that the Giants look outside the organization for a veteran back on the Sunday Night Football telecast. Players like Michael Turner, Cedric Benson and Willis McGahee are all hanging out on the free-agent wire. McGahee could be a viable option, but Turner and Benson are only factors if Coughlin is interested in 23-carry, 64-yard performances; they're cooked.
The likeliest scenario, though, remains Wilson keeping his job—doing so on the thinnest of ice.
After all, Coughlin has had some success breaking running backs of their fumbling habits in the past. Tiki Barber's career was on life support before some tough love from his coach and a carrying adjustment turned him into a superstar. Barber went from the pine to the 10,000-yard club.
Former Giants third-down back Derrick Ward, who lost just one fumble on 647 career NFL touches, even offered on Twitter to give the youngster some tips:
Giants are looking terrible especially David Wilson not being able to hold on to the ball or being able to block. Man Coughlin u gettin soft— Derrick Ward (@DerrickWard32) September 9, 2013
Transparent pining from a former player for a new job aside, New York might want to take Ward up on his offer. Getting continually berated every day in practice will probably get a little old this week, and Wilson might benefit from an outsider with experience giving him help.
The benefit would come to both the Giants and fantasy owners. Wilson is New York's highest-upside option at running back by far, and again, we're talking about one week here; it's not time for the proverbial fantasy panic button just yet.
David Wilson's bad Week 1: Fluke or sign of things to come?
If you can help it, avoid starting Wilson at Denver. Throw in a Daryl Richardson-, Darren Sproles- or Shane Vereen-type if at all possible. Allow the situation to play itself out while the Giants play a Broncos team that stymied Ray Rice on Thursday.
But after that, you should be able to find some value. New York plays Carolina and Kansas City on the road in Weeks 3 and 4 before heading back home for a Week 5 tilt against Philly. None of those defenses are especially horrible; they're just not scaring anyone.
They say patience is a virtue, but fifth-century poets never played fantasy football. As difficult as it may be, express a little patience with Wilson and it might all work out. He may never recoup second- or third-round value, but cutting bait won't do any good—for your team or the Giants.
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