Kyle Wilson insists his confidence isn’t shaken. But the Jets coaching staff thinks otherwise.
“He got called for a couple penalties, he got beat on a couple plays and that’s hard when a corner kind of loses his stinger a little. That can affect him,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday afternoon. “The mental is just as important as the physical. And that’s hard for a rookie. And to add to it, it’s not that his play had dropped all that much, but we had guys who stepped up and just were playing better. That to me was more of a reason for him not being out there than anything else.
"It was the play of [Drew] Coleman and Dwight Lowery -- guys that kind of went through struggles a year ago that kind of came back this year battle-tested and ready to handle it mentally. What we ask of our corners, it’s challenging. It’s more than what, I think, other teams ask. But that’s our style of defense, that’s how we play. And it’s tough for a rookie to get it right away.”
The expectations for Wilson – who was drafted 29th overall – were high. Head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum raved this spring about the 23-year-old’s cover ability. But after being named a starting cornerback during Darrelle Revis’ training camp absence, Wilson has now been supplanted by both Coleman and Lowery.
“Obviously, playing time has changed but all I can do is stay positive and go out there and try to make plays,” said Wilson. “…You’ve just got to take it in stride. You can’t ask for anything more. Just take the opportunities I have and try to go out there and get better.”
The problem is, he hasn’t.
Ryan, who said he feels better about the rookie’s progression, said Wilson has had the most trouble “finding the ball,” and because of that, his playing time has significantly decreased.
“There’s only one way to get a bigger role and that’s to show it on the practice field and when you do get your opportunities in the game, you’ve got to step up. And that’s it,” said Ryan. “But that’s my responsibility. I love Kyle and he was a first-round pick, and it would look great for the organization if he starts, and all that. But we say it all the time: ‘We’re in the win-business.’ I love all these guys, but we’re going to play the ones that we think give us the best opportunity to be successful.”
The coach also said Wilson has had trouble keeping up with the Jets constant scheme-changing.
“In this league we change all the time, it’s not like we have a set defense,” said Ryan. “And I think sometimes it’s tough. You think you got it and now we do something different. And that’s the way the league’s played and sometimes it just takes a little longer for guys to get the feel of it.”
Wilson said he started meeting one-on-one with defensive backs coordinator Dennis Thurman after the Week 4 win over Buffalo. The pair watches opponent film a couple times a week outside of practice.
“He’s just trying to get me to play smarter and always be confident and stuff out there,” Wilson said.
The rookie also contributes on special teams and is typically used in two-deep formations with safety Jim Leonhard on punt returns.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who uses the rookie in a two-deep formation with safety Jim Leonhard on punt returns, pointed out Wilson’s lack of aggressiveness at times, but said he still has faith in the Jets’ first-round pick.
“He’s still a little work in progress,” said Westhoff. “His time will come. It’s going to come for him. I have a lot of confidence in him.”