Jarrod Wilson was part of a quick NFL turnaround once before and thinks these Giants can do it too.
The seven-year veteran safety has been with the team for less than a week. He had a workout as a free agent on Monday, was signed that afternoon and was on the field for his first practice on Tuesday. But in the little time he has spent with the Giants, he sees signs that they might be able to make the kind of worst-to-first transition he saw firsthand as a member of the Jaguars in 2016 (when they went 3-13) and 2017 (10-6 and a spot in the AFC Championship Game).
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Wilson told Newsday. “You see the early makings of it.”
Wilson was brought in because of injuries to younger players in the secondary. Rookie safety Dane Belton fractured his collarbone last Saturday and Jarren Williams was waived/injured with a hamstring injury.
Wilson muddled through his first practice playing with the second and third teams, made plenty of mistakes he’ll correct as he acquires a more in-depth understanding of the playbook and said he felt “refreshed” to be back with a team after an offseason of uncertainty as a free agent.
Wilson’s best seasons in Jacksonville were in 2019 and 2020, when he was a full-time starter. In 2019, he started all 16 games and had two interceptions and a career-high 79 tackles. He arrived there as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan in 2016 and appeared in all 16 games. He appeared in 15 games the following year, when the Jaguars made their run in the postseason, and played in all three playoff games.
Wilson, 28, was released by Jacksonville at the end of last year’s training camp. The Jets signed him to their practice squad a week later and he played in five games, starting three, before the Jets released him on Dec. 7. He was signed two days later to the practice squad of the 49ers, for whom he played in four regular-season games and one playoff game.
The key to the Jaguars’ about-face in 2017, he said, wasn’t their roster or their coaching.
“The biggest thing is team camaraderie,” he said. “It’s not about the physical tools or how talented a team is. There’s talent everywhere throughout the league. All 32 teams are talented. But the teams I’ve been on that were good, they mesh really well and they’re like family. That team camaraderie, that team building, the togetherness, it’s what makes a good team great.”
Perhaps the Giants have a little bit of that going for them?
“There are some pretty good leaders on this team, guys who have been here for a while,” Wilson said. “There’s a ton of talent on the roster. You see the makings of it in guys who hold each other accountable, going out there having fun and understanding one another.”
It’s not a guarantee that the Giants will reach the conference title game this season, or even make the playoffs, or even have a winning record. But it’s at least something this team seems to have in common with those 2017 Jaguars, who shocked the league with their rapid U-turn.