This week, for the first time since training camp opened, the explosive running back took snaps with the first-team offense. And that has him a bit, well, anxious.
“I was nervous a little bit when they first told me I was going with the ones,” Wilson said today. “It had to sink in and I got out in practice yesterday and you could tell I was a little bit jittery and nervous.
“That was the first time (he was nervous). Like even in college (at Virginia Tech) when I went with (quarterback) Tyrod (Taylor), it was like I wasn’t nervous. The first time in a long time I felt nervous was yesterday.”
This afternoon’s Day Two with the ones was a bit better.
“A little less nervous,” Wilson said. “There was still some in there. I’m just waiting for the game to start.”
To Wilson, playing with the starters is both very different and nothing new. After all, he’s still taking handoffs, catching passes and running the same plays. On the other hand…
“I’m in there with Eli and those guys,” Wilson said. “You want to go out there and show what you can do and hopefully you can get more reps with Eli and get more plays with the ones.”
Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP who is entering his ninth season, said Wilson’s ascent is a normal part of his maturation process.
“Any time you get a rookie, every game, every practice, they’re learning.” Manning said.
“The more reps you can get them, especially with the first group, what we’re doing, different things, changing things, more audibles, he’s got to be put in that situation on a whim. He’s got to know exactly what his assignment is, and what’s going on. You have to throw that at him a little bit, see how he adjusts, see how quickly the game is played at this level, and how you have to know the offense like the back of your hand.”
Asked if Wilson might start vs. the Bears, coach Tom Coughlin said, “He’s taken a bunch of snaps here. He probably won’t start, but he’ll get many snaps.”
After watching Wilson in the spring and throughout training camp, the Giants believe he can be a significant contributor this season. He rushed for 1,709 yards last season for the Hokies. Through two preseason games, Wilson leads the Giants with 69 rushing yards and has the team’s longest run (26 yards) and kickoff return (48 yards).
“He’s obviously very fast, and he runs hard,” Manning said. “He lowers his shoulder, and delivers a powerful punch. That’s his style, and that powerful running is kind of New York tradition. Even though he’s not considered the big back a lot of the Giants are known for, he still runs hard like a lot of the running backs here do.”
Wilson’s self-evaluation was not quite as positive.
“I think I’ve done okay,” Wilson said. “I see a lot of room for improvement and I know I’m not playing to full potential when I’m out there. I’m just waiting for that moment when I walk off the field and know I got the hang of this.”
Manning suggested the game against the Bears will help Wilson accelerate that process.
“Any time you have a new guy, you want to see them play,” Manning said. “Especially a rookie you don’t know much about, never really saw him play in college. So you’re looking forward to him getting in games and see how he adjusts. I think it’s a great challenge for him to see what he knows, what he needs to work on. These rookies, any time you get them in live action, it’s a great tool for them to see where they stand.”
Wilson has modest goals entering the Chicago game.
“I just want to go out there and get productive with the first team offense and show that I deserve more with the first team offense,” he said. “I’m a rookie and I’m learning and the running back protecting the quarterback is a big role. They’re not going to put you out there until they know you’re ready and you’ve proven you’re ready. They’re giving me my opportunity this weekend and I want to take full advantage and go out there and be productive.
“Each week I look at as an opportunity to prove yourself and move up on the depth chart. This week, they’ve moved me up tremendously in giving me a shot so you definitely want to take advantage of that.”