EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Giants no longer have the time to groom rookie running back David Wilson.
The first-round draft pick is going to have to start contributing as Ahmad Bradshaw’s backup in the final five games of the regular season, starting Monday against the Washington Redskins.
Wilson was thrown into the role Sunday, when Andre Brown broke his left leg in the fourth quarter of New York’s 38-10 win over the Green Bay Packers.
On most teams, the backup spot might mean a couple of carries a game.
For the Giants (7-4), though, the role is different because of Bradshaw’s foot problems. He has dealt with them for years, usually playing in pain. One bad step, and Wilson becomes the No. 1 back … in the middle of a playoff race.
“Andre played a big role in our offense, so with his absence somebody’s gonna to have to definitely step up on the offensive side of the ball,” Wilson said. “And, you know, the coaches told me that I’m the next guy, so I’ve been preparing and hopefully I’ll be ready when they call my number.”
When they took Wilson with the final pick of the first round, the Giants believed that the Virginia Tech product would add a breakaway dimension to the run game. He had the speed to go run inside and outside, and during preseason, he displayed it at times.
Wilson, however, lost a fumble in Dallas territory in the season opener and his role in the offense disappeared. Brown snapped it up and received 73 carries, in which he compiled 385 yards, before the injury.
Through 11 games, Wilson has had 24 carries for 102 yards, with 40 coming on his only touchdown of the season. His biggest contribution has been on kickoff returns, where he has averaged 25.3 yards on 40 attempts. He was close to breaking a few early in the season but he hasn’t been as dangerous lately.
Brown’s injury has changed everything, which is something that Bradshaw knows about. In his rookie season of 2007, Bradshaw was the Giants’ No. 3 running back behind Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. He received his chance when Ward broke his leg late that season. Bradshaw relayed that story to Wilson earlier this season, reminding him to just keep working.
“I think he can be (ready),” Bradshaw said. “Once we get him going and get him learning a little more and different things in different areas, I think he’ll be a great asset to our offense. “
Wilson has been working with second-year fullback Henry Hynoski after practice for the past couple of weeks. The two head to a classroom and spend an hour with Hynoski quizzing the rookie on blitz pickups and assignments.
“He’s done a pretty good job so far,” Hynoski said, “and I’m going to be extra hard on him this week getting him prepared. And I know coaches will be too.”
Wilson plans to spend his off days Tuesday and Wednesday at the Giants headquarters putting in some extra work.
“The other weeks, you come in hoping and just trying to be persistent, and hoping and wishing you get your opportunity, and now you know this week, you will,” Wilson said. “You automatically take a different approach.”
Wilson actually had time to warm up on Sunday, noting the coaches had told him he was going to replace Brown on the play after he was hurt. As Wilson jogged onto the field, he saw Brown getting up slowly and knew he was hurt. He didn’t learn until later that the injury would open the door for him.
Wilson ended up getting six carries against the Packers. He gained 11 yards.
“It’s his time,” coach Tom Coughlin said of Wilson. “The timing as far as where he’s coming from couldn’t be any better, I don’t think. If he’s been very vigilant, and paid attention to the way that people have been corrected in front of him, then he’s going to give himself the best opportunity. It is a great opportunity for him and I think for our team as well.”
Coughlin did not say who would take over Brown’s roll near the goal line. He ran for eight touchdowns this season, most from inside the 5-yard line. The powerful Bradshaw, who has run for 733 yards and five touchdowns, would seem to be the go-to guy now.
“I’m just gonna go out there and play football,” Wilson said, “and play as hard as I can and provide production for my team.”
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