David Wilson said last weekend that he wouldn't be able to judge his progress or comfort in the NFL until he faced an actual first-team defense in a game situation. That, he figured, wouldn't happen until he went against the Cowboys in the Sept. 5 opener.
He was wrong.
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Wilson, who has gotten to play with the Giants' starting offense for the last two days, will see time with the first unit Friday against the Bears in the all-important third preseason game. Part of his promotion stems from Ahmad Bradshaw's being limited with a hand contusion he suffered Saturday against the Jets. But, Tom Coughlin said, the Giants also wanted to see how their prized first-round running back would play against a defense made up of legitimate NFL players and behind an offensive line also up to league standards.
Coughlin said Tuesday that Wilson technically won't start, but he will get some carries and plays with the starters. Most of what we have seen from Wilson has come in the way of glimpses, but Friday promises to be a chance to actually judge the rookie.
"I look at it like really my first preseason game, getting a real feel and going against a first-team defense out there with the starters and see how productive I can be," Wilson said.
The rest of the Giants want to see, too. After watching him in practices and in two preseason games against second- and third-stringers, they're curious as to what, exactly, the Giants drafted 32nd overall.
"I think any time you have new guys, you want to see them play, especially a rookie you don't know much about," Eli Manning said. "I never really saw him play in college. You are looking forward to see him get in the game and see how he adjusts. These rookies, it's a great tool for them to see where they stand."
"He has definitely got people excited with what he has done," guard Chris Snee said. "To go against a first-team defense, especially the Bears, a very good defense, will be a good test for all of us and also for him."
Wilson was told in a meeting before Monday's practice that he would be playing with the first team. That announcement gave him an odd feeling, he said, something he hasn't experienced in a while. He actually had some butterflies.
"It had to sink in," he said. "I got out to practice and you could tell I was a little bit jittery and nervous. That was the first time in a long time I felt nervous."
He overcame it and Tuesday, he said, he was feeling more comfortable. Now comes the big test against the Bears.
"Each week, I look at it as an opportunity to prove yourself and move up on the depth chart," he said. "This week, they moved me up tremendously and are giving me a shot, so you definitely want to take advantage of that."
Wilson thinks he's done OK so far. He had an exciting kickoff return in the first game, showing the speed for which he is known, and against the Jets he had a nice block on pass protection.
Still, while he will cherish this moment of walking onto the field to play with NFL starters, there's another moment he's looking forward to even more.
"I see a lot of room for improvement and I know I'm not playing to full potential when I'm out there," Wilson said. "I'm just waiting for that moment when I walk off the field and know I got the hang of this."
So are the Giants.