David Wilson has become a big-play contributor on the Giants while hardly touching the ball as a running back.
The team's first-round draft choice has consistently given the offense good field position with outstanding kickoff returns. In the Giants' 19-17 loss last night in Philadelphia, he brought back six kickoffs for 217 yards, the third-highest single-game total in franchise history. Wilson has an NFL-high 13 kickoff returns for 393 yards, a 30.2-yard average that places him third in the league.
"David Wilson as a weapon is quite obvious now that people are really going to have to contend with that aspect of our game," Coach Tom Coughlin said.
"I think the guys in front of me, they did an excellent job setting it up and getting on their guys," Wilson said today. "And coach always says, 'Get a good returner back there, guys get more motivated to block for him.' So hopefully we can keep it going."
Wilson returned the opening kickoff 36 yards. Late in the second quarter, he had a 48-yarder that set up the Giants' first score, a 25-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal. In the second half, he had a 45-yarder that led to the Giants' first touchdown and a 53-yarder that set up a possession in which the Giants drove to Philadelphia's 10-yard line before Eli Manning threw an interception. After the Eagles scored on a field goal, Wilson took a kickoff six yards deep in the end zone and returned it 23 yards.
"He works hard every day," Coughlin said. "The kid…he works hard. He's trying to get it all figured out. He wants you to know how much it means to him and how important it is to him. He's gone out last night and proven a few things. Is there a place for a guy that can take it at five yards and run it the rest of the way…yes."
Wilson said the decision whether to return a kick is not his alone.
"The off returner (Da'Rel Scott) is the one that tells me to stay in or come out," Wilson said. "If the off returner tells me to come on…As long as I catch it clean and I'm not off balance catching it or anything crazy, I just look for him for the signal after that and, of course, I've got to feel comfortable. I do have the option to take a knee if I want to."
But Wilson wants to catch the ball and run, because he believes every return is a potential touchdown.
"Even the one I got tackled inside the 20," he said, "I made a cut and slipped and if you watch it on film, it was a long cutback lane I was trying to get to."
With six carries for eight yards and one three-yard catch, Wilson has hardly contributed on offense. But he's more than making up for it on special teams.
"Kick return has always been my favorite part of the game," Wilson said. "It's starting the game off and you get to put the offense in good field position or you can return it for a touchdown. It's just fun getting to use my speed, because of course I've got open space and am able to run and that's a part of the game I enjoy a lot."
The Giants like it a lot as well.
*Wilson's only chance on offense was on a shovel pass that he dropped.
"It was an excellent call; it was at the right time (on a second-and-five near midfield in the first quarter)," Coughlin said. "It was well set up. There was no indication that that was coming whatsoever. They had been subject to the crack-block in previous games relatively effectively, and if I was a defensive player, I would play it the same way. They were looking for crack. Because they were looking for crack, it gave us a chance. I don't know if it's an exactly perfect flip, but it should be caught; it's there. Catch it, put it away, and use your God-given ability.'
*Coughlin said safety Kenny Phillips is "week-to-week" with a sprained medical collateral ligament in his right knee he suffered in the first quarter. It's a similar injury to the one that tackle David Diehl suffered vs. Tampa Bay. Diehl has missed the last two games, but hopes to return Sunday at home vs. Cleveland. But Phillips' recovery and availability could be much different, in part, as Coughlin said, because he plays a different position. Playing safety requires much more running than tackles do
Phillips was replaced in Philadelphia by Steve Brown.
"He did a nice job coming in the game," Coughlin said. "He did some good things. He left a couple of things on the field, but by in large, for a guy who had to be pressed into action as early as he did, he fit in very well."
*Another safety, Tyler Sash, returned to the Timex Performance Center today after serving a four-week suspension for violating the NFL's policy on using performance-enhancing substances.
The Giants receive a roster exemption for Sash and are permitted to practice with 54 layers this week. They have until next Monday at 4 p.m. to release or place a player on injured reserve to make room for Sash, or to make a move with the second-year safety. If Sash is to play Sunday against Cleveland, the move must be made by Saturday at 4 p.m.
*Sash said he spent the first two weeks of his suspension working out in Miami before spending the last two weeks in his Iowa hometown.
"I'm ready," Sash said "I've been sitting at home. Besides working out, I've been watching football trying to be around football. I went to high school practices. I went to seventh grade football games. I just wanted to be around football.
"I'm in shape. I'm excited to get on the field Wednesday again and get around the guys and just start playing again."
As Sash well knows, being in condition and being in football shape are very different. So how long will it take for him to get into football shape?
"Hopefully by Sunday," Sash said. "Probably get my chance to go Sunday with some injuries, Kenny getting banged up. We're not healthy anywhere across the board and in the defensive backfield, so I'm excited to get back."
*One of the key plays in the Giants' defeat last night was the offensive pass interference penalty called on wide receiver Ramses Barden with 21 seconds remaining. The 10-yard infraction pushed the Giants back to the Eagles' 36-yard line and forced Lawrence Tynes to try a 54-yard field goal that fell about three yards short.
Could Barden have done anything to prevent interfering with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha?
"Maybe do something different at the line of scrimmage," Barden said. "Maybe try to hold him inside longer, but once you're 20 yards down field… If he's ahead of you or he's got inside position and the ball is kind of tracking him more than me, then I've got to find a way to not let him get it. So something on the front end maybe, but after that's it's he can't come down with the ball. So I'm not ashamed about that at all."
Barden said Asomugha could have intercepted Eli Manning's pass if he didn't prevent it.
"That's what I have to assume, you have to," Barden said. "I can't just let him go and hope he doesn't. He's a talented guy. He's one of the best corners in the league. Arguably the best, so you've got to assume somebody has a fair track to a ball that he's going to come down with it, so I can't let that happen. I thought it was clean enough to maybe not call it, but I respect the call. What's done is done."
*Perhaps the most oft-repeated question of the Giants' players and coaches today was whether they are concerned about the 0-2 start in the division, the team's first such beginning in the NFC East since 1996.
"Well I'm concerned, but we have (four) games to go," Coughlin said. "You don't expect to be 0-2, but we are. Am I concerned? Sure, I'm concerned, naturally. I'm trying to link the continuity between playing on a Thursday night (a 36-7 victory in Carolina) with no practice time and playing pretty darn well against a team that had 480 yards against New Orleans the week before, and then last night's game, which was, to me, disenfranchised. The continuity of our game was not there the way it should have been. Our special teams I think played sound and solid, with the exception, I don't think we punted the ball well, I don't think we gained the field position out of the punting game; touchbacks are not what we are after. The way it went back and forth between the offensive and the defensive plays that occurred, we need to be in better harmony in all three phases than we were."
The players emphasized the team has plenty of time to recover.
"It's upsetting to us," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "That's not the position that we want to be in, but it's not going to make us hang our heads or do anything out of our character. Our character is to go back out and fight and to continue to try to stack the wins up."
"Hey, we're 2-2 right now," Manning said. "It's not the ideal situation, but you could be a lot worse. Philadelphia is 3-1, we're not far out. There's a lot of football to be played. We've still got four more divisional games. It's a lot of football left and we've got to worry about Cleveland and get back to winning and there's no point in getting down now. Everybody knows we're going to see Philadelphia again the last game of the regular season. I have a feeling that's going to be a big game for us."
*Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries, said he had "no problems" with his neck. He missed the Carolina game with a neck injury.
*Coughlin on his concern regarding Hakeem Nicks, who has a sore knee and sore foot and has missed the last two games:
"How much concern can I show you?" he said. Asked about Nicks' availability for Cleveland, Coughlin said, "I won't know until I see what happens. Where he's at as they go forward here and analyze him and the doctors get their hands on him again. He communicates with them. I can't tell you that."