"This has become David Wilson week around the Giants.
On Sunday, he scored three touchdowns and set team and NFL records in a 52-27 beatdown of the New Orleans Saints.
This morning, Wilson was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, the first Giants kickoff returner to be so honored in 18 years.
A short time later, Tom Coughlin revealed that Ahmad Bradshaw sprained his knee vs. the Saints. Bradshaw didn’t practice today. The Giants’ second-leading rusher, Andre Brown, is on injured reserve with a fractured fibula. So if Bradshaw can’t play this week against the Falcons in Atlanta, making his first career start at running back will be…well, David Wilson, of course.
So today, when the media descended on the Giants’ locker room, the crowd of reporters around Wilson’s locker room rivaled that usually found in front of Eli Manning.
“The whole time I’ve been preparing and working hard so when my number is called I’ll be ready,” Wilson said. “That happened last game and I think I handled it pretty well. Like I said, I’m going to keep working hard and moving forward and getting better because the season is narrowing down. I want to definitely be able to continue to contribute.”
That won’t be an issue. Wilson accounted for a Giants-record 327 yards (227 on kickoff returns, 100 rushing) vs. the Saints. He was the first Giants player since 1948 to score rushing and kickoff return touchdowns in the same game and the first player in NFL history with at least 200 kickoff return yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game.
“He gives us a great boost,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “Anytime you can get big yardage on kickoff returns and he can break the big one on a run play at any given moment, so it’s definitely an added boost and it gives us confidence to go out there and block for him because our block can spring him for that long run or long touchdown, so it’s exciting.”
The team’s first-round draft choice this year, Wilson had to patiently wait his turn and earn the coaches’ trust after an opening-night fumble. Along the way, he impressed everyone with his attitude and work ethic.
“He’s always wanted to play,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s always wanted the ball. He’s always wanted to be a factor, whether it be offense or special teams. He was on our punt block team. He’s accepted any and every role that we’ve given him. He’s always come to practice or to the meetings with an interest in trying to learn everything as fast as he possibly could. Someone asked me that the other night about his attitude and his attitude has never changed. It’s always been an aggressive, positive attitude and his position has always been ‘I can do more. I want to help more. What can I do?’ And it’s been a question of how rapidly we could assimilate all of that into the game.”
“I think David has taken advantage of the opportunity,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “This last month or so, Ahmad hadn’t been practicing much. So he’s been getting tons of reps and has been seeing all the looks and all the blitzes and all the things that have been thrown at us and our preparation and he has responded well to that. So I think obviously getting all those quality reps, seeing the looks and he’s got a great feel for what’s going on. Obviously, his running ability and being able to break the big play and do some of those things, that’s great for him and we’ll need him to continue to run the ball well for us.”
The next step for Wilson is to produce with a heavier workload. He has just 41 rushing attempts in 13 games and his 13 carries against New Orleans were a season-high. Wilson averaged just fewer than 21 attempts a game in his final season at Virginia Tech and is confident he can handle that responsibility at this level.
“It’s football,” Wilson said. “I’ve been playing it for a while now, so getting carries and getting a load, so to say, it’s a team sport. The coaches know that. They know how to figure it out and decipher and give breathers. I’m not the only running back on the team.
“The more experience you get, the more mature you can become in the game. I was saying that last week because sometimes running backs say they only had seven carries, that’s why they weren’t able to be productive, but you look at some games and a guy has one carry or two carries and gets a touchdown. Sometimes that isn’t an excuse.”
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Wilson is whether he’ll continue to celebrate scoring his touchdowns by doing a backflip, as he did three times last Sunday. Coughlin would not say whether he told Wilson to stop flipping out. The Giants players offered various opinions.
“I told him to stop doing them,” said defensive end and captain Justin Tuck. “Everyone knows how athletic he is, but the last thing we need is him having some tweak injury by showing off to the crowd. Let’s just keep him upright and running and leave the backflips for YouTube. They’re already on YouTube. If people want to see them, they can go to YouTube and see them.”
“I just cringe and hope he lands safely, because you just never know what can happen,” said Cruz, whose salsa dance was the team’s most signature celebration until Wilson flipped. “But he’s a very athletic guy as you can see and for him to do that each and every time - one time he did it with the ball in his hands, so it was definitely impressive.”
Manning endorsed the flip for a reason that’s hard to dispute.
“That means he’s scoring touchdowns,” Manning said. “So that’s fine by me.”
Wilson hinted he would like to keep doing backflips after scoring touchdowns.
“I’ve been doing ‘em since I was three years old,” he said. “It’s easy, it’s almost like running for me to jump and turn backwards. I’ve been doing it for a while, so I think people can relax a little.”
But not everyone can relax. And Wilson offered a strong clue why he might have to find another way to celebrate getting into the end zone.
“(General manager) Jerry Reese just told me if I get hurt, then he’ll be in my grill.” Wilson said.
*If Bradshaw does not play, Kregg Lumpkin , signed two weeks ago, will presumably be the No. 2 back behind Wilson. Ryan Torain, signed along with Lumpkin following Brown’s injury, is the only other running back on the roster after Wilson and Lumpkin.
Lumpkin said he’s ready to take on a larger role.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Lumpkin said. “I’m always learning. I feel like once you get to know the base protections and the base communication between the quarterback and knowing the concepts of the routes and after that you can just go out there and try to play confident and then still do your job.”
Lumpkin quickly learned that the first requirement for all Giants running backs is keeping pass rushers way from Manning.
“You have to protect the franchise quarterback,” he said. “If not, then you won’t be here. So I just continue to learn protections, know your adjustments, know your routes and just go out there and play.”
*Bradshaw was one of seven players who did not practice today. The others were cornerback Prince AMukamara (hamstring), linebacker Michael Boley (back), wide receiver Haakeem Nicks (knee), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (back) and safeties Kenny Phillips (knee) and Tyler Sash (hamstring)."