First-round pick David Wilson is getting mixed signals to say the least.
Veterans only refer to the former Virginia Tech running back as “rookie;” he's the last back to touch the ball in practice; but he also fields questions from swarms of interested reporters who wonder if he's the man to replace the departed Brandon Jacobs.
Wilson is alternately being showered with attention and practically ignored, but he's taken it all in stride, particularly the part about being last on the depth chart.
“It's good because I get to watch them (and) make sure I do it right,” he said on Saturday.
So far, Wilson has been doing nearly everything right. He did fumble a toss in the rain on Saturday, but he also caught two (extremely) overthrown passes from quarterback Ryan Perrilloux -- the first of which came at point-blank range.
“It was thrown in my area, so I figured it was my ball,” Wilson said of his catch at Friday's practice, a feat made more impressive by the fact that he needed to leap and stretch his 5-9 frame simply to get a hand on the ball. “After I caught it, I looked back to see if there was a receiver behind me, but there wasn't.”
Those plays are difficult for most rookies. If you catch a pass that's intended for another receiver, it shows a lack of understanding of the playbook. But, if you let the pass fly over your head -- which many other backs probably would have done -- you look equally ridiculous. But Wilson trusted his instincts, which is a good thing because he's made learning the Giants offense his “first and foremost” task of the offseason.
Wilson had 21 catches for 126 yards in his final season at Virginia Tech, so he's definitely a candidate to contribute in the Giants passing attack. The real question is whether he can contribute to a ground game that ranked dead last in the NFL last season.
According to anyone around the Giants training camp in Albany, Wilson has the wheels to get the job done.
“When you see him hit a hole, he bursts right through it and he's gone,” right tackle David Diehl said.
Wilson said he knows he's fast, but for everyone to be talking about his speed through two days of camp is a surprise to even him.
“I didn't know it stood out that much,” Wilson said.
Of course, it takes more than speed to make it in the Giants backfield. As mentioned on Friday in our piece, “Running-game improvement remains the priority.” And Giants coaches insist that all backs protect quarterback Eli Manning. If they can't pick up blitzers, they won't get on the field.
For Wilson to have any hope of contributing on offense, he'll have to make it a goal of his to improve his blocking skills.
Fortunately, Wilson is a goal-oriented player. Before every season he sits down and makes a list of difficult objectives he hopes to achieve.
Last year, Wilson said, he wanted to average 100 yards per game, one touchdown per game as well as be named All-ACC and All-American. Wilson even made a goal of becoming a first-round pick in the NFL Draft (he was selected 32nd overall).
Wilson accomplished around “80 percent” of his goals, he said. He was the ACC Player of the Year, in fact, but he was not an All-American.
This year Wilson has yet to formally make a list of goals, although he said he plans on doing it after the first preseason game when he finds out exactly what his role will be.
That won't stop Giants fans from setting a few goals for him -- specifically, playing like a first-round pick.
That, of course, won't stop others from setting a few goals for him -- specifically, playing like a first-round pick.
“Obviously, you pick a guy in the first round you expect him to come in and contribute," general manager Jerry Reese said, adding that he needs the 21-year-old to “take care of the ball” and “pass protect.”
“He has to get going really quickly, but he is a natural with the ball in his hand,” Reese continued. “We are not worried about him as a runner, but the other little things he has to get right to play in this league.”