Rock covers the New York Giants. Previously covered college sports and outdoors.
Giants fans may be clamoring for more than the occasional glimpse of their first-round pick, David Wilson, but the Giants are determined to wait until he's ready to handle the entire offense.
"It's about winning games, it's not a popularity contest," running backs coach Gerald Ingram said on Monday. "It's time for you to grow up and be a man now and see what you can do with the whole ball of wax. Until he proves that, it's hard to stick him out there and feel comfortable."
Wilson has been used less than sparingly so far this season. He has 18 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown. That's an afternoon's work for the two other running backs who also were taken in the first round in April, Trent Richardson of the Browns and Doug Martin of the Bucs, both of whom are starters. They've totaled five 100-yard games. Wilson doesn't even have a 100-yard season yet.
"Just because you're a first-round draft pick doesn't mean you're ready to play, or they all would be great," Ingram said. "He is a situational player as a rookie right now. Yeah, he's explosive, but at what cost is he explosive? Is he explosive at the cost of not being able to protect well? Not being able to know his job well? Not being a pro?"
Ingram's words may sound harsh, and they are. But that's the way the Giants like them to be when it comes to running backs. It's worked for them in the past. And not only at running back. This is a team, remember, that waited until November of his rookie season to play Eli Manning, who was their first overall draft pick in 2004.
"He's in no different situation than when Brandon [Jacobs] was a rookie here and didn't play," Ingram said. "We went through the same situation with everybody asking, 'Why isn't Brandon on the field?' Well, Tiki [Barber] wasn't going to let him [take away his snaps] unless he knew how to protect the quarterback. It was all protection. He had to learn that you can't be just a runner, just like David has to learn that you can't be just a runner. That's not what we do.
"Derrick Ward was in that situation. Ahmad Bradshaw was in that situation," Ingram continued. "Ahmad Bradshaw spent a couple of years here sitting on the bench while Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs played . . . Does that make him hungrier? That's one thing I think we've always done here with the Giants is our running backs learn that you're not going to get on the field until you learn to handle all of those things, and they have always made them better. It made Brandon Jacobs better. It made Bradshaw better. It made Derrick Ward better."
Will it make Wilson better? And when?
"He's getting better, that's all I can tell you," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He's getting better. He's filling in the areas that need to be improved upon so that you feel good enough about putting him in a more broad-range situation, where more things can happen than him just carrying the ball."
Wilson, who has sparked the Giants on kickoff returns, does not appear frustrated by the lack of offensive playing time. Last month he told Newsday that he believes he will wind up as a Hall of Famer.
The comparisons between Wilson and Martin likely will linger throughout their careers. So far, Martin is way ahead. That's not a fair fight right now, the Giants coaches say, because of their college backgrounds.
"That's a guy who was in an offense that was taught to do a lot of things that the NFL teams are doing," Ingram said of Martin. "David was on a team that was taught basically to give him the ball and be explosive and be a great runner. It's apples and oranges right now. It'll come in time. We don't think David is afraid of anything. It's just him learning the offense, being comfortable, being physical, being tough. Those kinds of things . . . Learn to be a pro every day in practice, get better, and make everybody feel comfortable that you're ready to play.
"We're gonna have to need you as you go on," Ingram said. "We need you."