Toward the end of his rookie season, it almost seemed as though the Jets had placed first-round cornerback Kyle Wilson in the witness protection program to shield him from the experienced NFL quarterbacks who were picking on him unlike anything he ever saw at Boise State. But quietly over the first half of this season, Wilson has been showing signs of progress while playing the nickel corner.
Finally, it happened for Wilson in a big spot -- he recorded his first NFL interception in the Jets' 27-21 victory over the Chargers Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Jets were protecting a 24-21 lead when San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers targeted dangerous wide receiver Vince Jackson against Wilson, who actually had deep help from Antonio Cromartie and was playing the zone under Jackson when he ran a deep out.
Wilson picked off Rivers' pass and returned it 10 yards to the San Diego 47, leading to the Jets' final field goal. "I was supposed to be under the receiver," Wilson said. "It was a motion, and we communicated the coverage. We did everything we were supposed to do. Give that to [defensive coordinator Mike] Pettine. I've got to stay with my receiver. He got into his final route, and I got my head around to the quarterback, saw the ball coming, and it was a matter of catching it."
The second-year corner admitted he tried to emulate teammate Darrelle Revis, who returned a pick 100 yards for a TD the previous game against Miami. Revis is impressed with Wilson's progress and attributed it to the work he put in during the offseason despite the NFL lockout.
"He's making plays, it's tighter coverage, and he understands the defense very well," Revis said of Wilson. "He's being where he needs to be in the defense, which is good. We talked before the game. I asked him, 'When are you going to get an interception?' He said, 'It's coming.' So, I'm proud of him stepping up, and he's going to continue to make plays."
Now that he's on the right track, Wilson said it was just a matter of gaining experience and learning to play smarter. Finally getting his first interception was an undeniable milestone for him. "Yeah, it was special," Wilson said with a smile. "I'm not going to say it wasn't, but I wasn't holding my breath for it. I knew it would come sooner or later. I can't go outlaw out there. I've just got to continue to play the defense and do the things they're asking."
Asked if he had the ball, Wilson grinned again. "I've got it," he said. "Vito the equipment guy has it. Don't worry, it's coming home with me."