Through Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season, New York Giants starting running back David Wilson has 78 regular-season rushing attempts for 377 yards and three fumbles. That comes down to one fumble for every 26 carries.
While that's probably not enough evidence to label Wilson as a chronic fumbler, the fact that he had two fumbles in one game is concerning. Also worth noting is that all three of Wilson's fumbles have come against the Dallas Cowboys.
The question that needs to be asked is this: Is it something the Cowboys are doing against Wilson, or is it something Wilson is—or isn't—doing that is at the root of his three rather embarrassing fumbles, all of which have come in prime-time games?
Let's take a look.
Fumble Number 1: September 5, 2012
Wilson, the Giants' promising first-round draft pick from that year is inserted into the game with 6:43 in the first quarter on a 2nd-and-8 from the Cowboys 29.
The coaches are brimming with hope that this young speedster might prove to be a nice change-of-pace back to complement starter Ahmad Bradshaw, while the fans excitedly hope to see Wilson torch the Dallas defense and score his first career touchdown.
Instead, Wilson fumbled the ball as linebacker Sean Lee knocks it out of his grasp, and it's safety Barry Church, the same Barry Church who in this year's game recovered a Wilson fumble, scoops it up on the change of possession.
We hear coaches mention the "high and tight" battle cry for running backs all the time, but on this particular fumble, Wilson apparently missed the memo. In the image on the left, note how the nose (tip) of the ball isn't quite as secured in the crook of Wilson's elbow as it needs to be.
That's not good for a running back because when the nose of the ball is visible, it's more susceptible to being pushed out. That's why, as shown in the image on the right, the ball shoots straight out.
What Wilson should have done on this play is tuck the ball tightly into the crook of his elbow, and the minute he saw or sensed Lee's hand coming in for the ball, he should have gotten his free hand over it to knock Lee's hand away.
He did neither and instead of potentially scoring a touchdown, Wilson coughed the ball up.
Fumble Number 2: "Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice..."
As it was a year ago, it's opening night against Dallas. The only difference though is the game is at the Cowboys' newly renamed AT&T Stadium, but otherwise, the expectations are the same for the Giants going into their first game of the new season against a division rival.
In the days leading up to the practice, head coach Tom Coughlin warned his offensive skill players that a point of emphasis for new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was to strip the ball.
Their fears proved correct, as Wilson was stripped twice in the game.
On the first strip, which took place on a 1st-and-goal on the Cowboys eight-yard line, Wilson took the handoff and tried to get around the left end.
The problem, though, was that this play was doomed from the start. Lead blocker Henry Hynoski looked like he missed safety Barry Church on the edge, which freed the defender to run toward Wilson.
As Church closed in on Wilson, you can again see in the image just above that the nose of the ball is not tucked securely into the crook of the running back's arm.
All Church has to do to cause a fumble is put enough pressure on the top of the ball given its positioning in Wilson's grasp.
Interestingly, in the shot on the right, Church appears to have a good enough piece of the ball, yet Wilson is late in bringing over his right hand to not only protect the ball but to move Church's hand away.
When Wilson does finally get his second hand on the ball to protect it, it's too late. Note how the nose of the ball is now very visibly pointing to the ground with Wilson's free hand on top of the ball rather than underneath it.
Meanwhile, Church is seen pushing down on the ball, which ultimately results in it coming free from Wilson's grasp, where it was recovered by defensive lineman George Selvie for no gain.
Fumble Number 3: "Take a Seat, Kid"
The straw that broke the camel's back came early in the third quarter on a 2nd-and-15 with 12:42 to go.
As seen in the screen capture on the left, the nose of the ball appears to be behind Wilson's elbow and is pointing down toward the ground with no barrier to stop it from popping out.
In the image on the right side, the defender starts to make a play for the ball and Wilson brings his left hand up to secure it. Instead of putting it underneath his right arm, he appears to be pressing his right arm, holding the ball in tighter to his body.
As linebacker Joe Hayden gets closer and gets his arm on top of the ball, Wilson has now removed his left arm from the ball, leaving it exposed for the strip.
Again, with the ball not tucked in tightly into the crook of his arm, the ball is susceptible to the strip, as has been the case on his other two fumbles.
As Wilson and Hayden fall to the ground, the running back continues to fail to protect the pigskin. In this image, taken just seconds before the ball came out of Wilson's grasp, note how his left hand is on top of the ball instead of being on the bottom.
Wilson's three fumbles appear to be a result of his failure to hold the ball "high and tight," as well as properly protecting the ball with his free hand when contacted by a defender.
The good news is that the Giants coaching staff—Coughlin and running backs coach Jerald Ingram—have been down this road before with Tiki Barber and with Ahmad Bradshaw, both of whom had their techniques fixed to where fumbles became rare for each.
If Wilson is a willing student who places a focus on carrying the ball around high and tight like Bradshaw and Barber used to do when the coaches first started fixing their fumbling issue, he should be fine moving forward.
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