By now you know that Andre Brown had an incredible game on Thursday night against the Panthers, to the tune of 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. While his game provided a much needed lift to an injury-riddled team, the one Giant who may not have been happy about it was David Wilson.
Wilson has been virtually invisible since he fumbled the second carry of his career in the opener against Dallas. Since that mistake, he has only been given 4 carries and managed 4 yards, including one carry for -2 yards on Thursday night. To make matters worse for Wilson, Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury should have given him a chance at redemption. Instead, there’s a brewing controversy over the starting running back position… and Wilson’s not in the conversation.
Although it’s hard to look at Brown’s success as anything but a positive for the Giants, Wilson’s disappearing role on offense recalls the question of why the Giants felt the need to burn a first-round draft pick on a running back back in April. As Bill Barnwell over at Grantland wrote before Thursday’s game, the Giants have a checkered history when it comes to investing heavily in their backfield. And with the two most important running backs of the last two Super Bowl teams being Brandon Jacobs (4th-rounder) and Ahmad Bradshaw (7th-rounder), the Giants probably should have known better before paying such a premium for a position that can be filled more cheaply without much loss of production.
The one area where Wilson has made somewhat of an impact is on special teams. Wilson has averaged a respectable 25.1 yards per attempt as the Giants’ primary kickoff return man – good for 9th in the league among players with at least five attempts. However, the usefulness of returners has diminished significantly over the past two seasons with the kickoffs now coming from the 35-yard line. Despite Wilson’s spark in the return game, the Giants rank 15th in the NFL in average starting field position – almost exactly middle of the pack.
It’s unclear where all of this this leaves Wilson for this season and beyond. It appears he won’t be getting major carries for the Giants any time soon, as even Da’Rel Scott (6 carries, 9 yards) saw more time than Wilson did in the closing moments of Thursday’s blowout win. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the Giants would give up so quickly on a player they valued highly enough to pick in the first round just five months ago. If Wilson wants to be a part of this offense going forward, he’s going to have to follow Brown’s lead and make the most of what few opportunities come his way.