Way back in May at Giants OTAs, Eli Manning talked about David Wilson, and the challenges he faced to simply get on the field in his rookie season:
“You see talent and you see speed, and quickness, so those are obviously important things. But for a running back it’s learning technique, footwork. Protections are going to be a big deal, knowing what to do. If I’m changing protections and changing plays, is he going to be ready for that? And also routes. Routes versus every concept, knowing where to be and all those things. Those things are what usually take the longest and sometimes holds up a running back from getting on the field.”
In the Giants’ crucial Week 15 game in Atlanta, rookie RB David Wilson started in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw, who was out with a sprained knee. They missed Bradshaw badly. Whenever the Giants got into obvious passing situations, they benched Wilson in favor of Kregg Lumpkin, a guy they had just signed off the street 3 weeks prior. Wilson has more talent in his pinky fingernail than Kregg Lumpkin, and yet, despite trailing by a large deficit (a time when you need all the playmakers you can get), Lumpkin got significant playing time because the Giants didn’t trust Wilson in pass protection.
Why? On the second play from scrimmage in that game, the Falcons called a blitz for LB Sean Weatherspoon:
Wilson read it correctly, and got into a good position to make a block:
However, he appears to try to “catch” Weatherspoon, rather than delivering a blow of his own, and Weatherspoon simply trucked him:
Apologies for the blur, but Weatherspoon is able to get a hit on Eli, who is not able to fully follow through on his throw:
Interception, Asante Samuel:
The Falcons would score a few plays later.
Ahmad Bradshaw was excellent at all the “little things.” Pro Football Focus had Bradshaw rated as the best blocking back in the league in 2012. In watching him on tape, I would agree that his pass protection was stellar. The above is an extreme example of Wilson’s poor pass protection, but the point remains that the dropoff from Bradshaw to Wilson in terms of pass pro is steep.
This isn’t to say that the Giants were wrong for cutting Bradshaw loose. Bradshaw has had nagging injuries plague him over the last few seasons, and he just had surgery to replace a previously inserted screw with a bigger one. Clearly, there are major health concerns in play. But Wilson is going to have to improve on all the little things that Bradshaw did so well, especially in pass protection, or the Giants’ offense is going to suffer.