David Wilson and the Giants' Play Calling: Now What?
After two games in this young NFL season, David Wilson is worse than everyone. Plaxico Burress, who was put on IR before the season began, has more standard fantasy points than him. So does the suspended Jerome Felton, the PUP’d Jonathan Stewart and the retired Glen Coffee. And, dare I say, so does Brandon freaking Jacobs.
It wasn’t a surprise to see the Giants lose to the Broncos on Sunday. It was, however, surprising to see just how stubborn and mind-blowingly ridiculous the Giants coaching staff was with their running backs.
Yesterday was more than a loss for the Giants. It was a sign. The Giants don’t trust David Wilson the way fantasy owners want them to, and this notion is deeper than just peeping the stat sheet to see the running back splits. It’s much deeper.
Breaking Down the Giants Play-by-Play Against the Broncos
We can forgive the New York coaching staff for their benching of David Wilson against the Cowboys Week 1. After fumbling the ball twice, there was no reason for him to be in the game.
I’m not sure we can forgive them for Week 2, though.
I dug into the play-by-play of the Giants game yesterday, and the only word to describe what I saw was “ridiculous”. Let’s take a look.
On the first drive for the G-Men, with the game scoreless, David Wilson saw two carries and a target on five offensive plays. The first play of the game was a deep pass from Eli to Victor Cruz, good for 51 yards. Wilson had two carries for six yards, while newcomer Brandon Jacobs saw one for five. Fine. Great. The drive resulted in a field goal and the lead for the Giants.
After a Denver punt, the Giants had the ball again up by three. Wilson got the first touch of the drive, resulting in a three-yard loss. Eli then threw two incomplete passes. The Giants punted the ball back to the Peytons.
Did David Wilson make a pass at Coughlin's wife after that three-yard loss? Because after the carry, which happened with over four minutes left in the first quarter, Brandon Jacobs started seeing the field on early downs. Guys, it’s not like we’re talking about Andre Brown here. We talkin’ bout Prac…Brandon Jacobs!
The next David Wilson carry occurred almost an entire quarter (three offensive drives and a couple of Jacobs carries) after his three-yard loss, and he touched the ball for a nice six-yard gain on first down. Wilson then had two more carries which went for two and six, and the drive resulted in a field goal after Eli Manning couldn’t complete a pass.
So let’s get this straight for a second: The Giants are now up 9-7 against the best team in the AFC, and David Wilson was the primary back during two of those field goal drives. And the one where he wasn’t, Brandon Jacobs ran once for a two-yard loss.
OK. Let’s continue.
The next non-two-minute drill drive for the Giants occurred in the third, where Eli dropped back to pass three times and failed to convert on a first down. New York was down by just one at that point, keep in mind, but a first-down sack forced the team to pass on second and third down.
After a Broncos touchdown, the Giants found themselves on their own 19 down by eight. Eli started to move the ball, but Wilson saw one carry (no gain) on the 12-play, touchdown-scoring drive. Brandon Jacobs, understandably (I guess), saw three carries within the Denver five-yard line. Da’Rel Scott saw one too.
This drive told me a lot. The Giants were pass-heavy, which isn’t incredibly surprising; the team and play calling is a "giant" panic attack on offense. David Wilson, to note, wasn’t part of that attack.
The other takeaway here: David Wilson probably won’t be the goal line back because of his fumbling issues and smaller build. That’s fine, as Andre Brown was going to assume that role anyway before he was hurt. But even if Wilson sees a bigger role, don’t expect him to score seven or eight touchdowns this year.
The G-Men found themselves down by just one point towards the end the third. It’s kind of surprising considering the game’s score. Knowshon Moreno then scored his second touchdown (which would’ve been Montee Ball if not for an early-game goal line fumble), putting the Giants down eight.
Then Eli threw an interception. Then Trindon Holliday returned a punt for a touchdown. Then Da’Rel Scott – the Giants clear third-down back – saw most of the running back playing time for the majority of the fourth quarter.
David Wilson saw zero offensive touches after the 7:34 mark in the third quarter.
In the end, Da’Rel Scott saw 39 snaps, David Wilson saw 24 and Brandon Jacobs 14. The Scott numbers were due to his third-down role, as the Giants found themselves in a big hole in the fourth quarter. It would seem fair to assume that Wilson would have seen a few more touches if not for a late-game meltdown by the Giants.
Reason to Believe in a Committee
If we’re using the game against Denver as the barometer, it would make sense that a running back-by-committee is the future for New York. The problem for Wilson is that the Giants offensive play calling is so fear-driven that, any time the team goes down by even just a score, it’s going to be Eli’s turn to toss the rock around the field. Because David Wilson’s third-down role is diminished by Da’Rel Scott (I can’t even believe I’m typing this), he’s not going to see the kind of snaps fantasy owners want him to.
The Giants defense has holes, so it’s not safe to assume they’ll consistently have the lead this year. We’ve already seen that through two weeks of the season. If this does becomes a full blown committee, David Wilson will more than likely only be a valuable fantasy play when the Giants are facing poor competition. In other words, he’s a bench guy that could see your lineup every now and then.
Reason to Believe in Wilson
But guys, the Giants are 0-2. During Week 1, partially because of the David Wilson fumbles, the G-Men ranked dead last in adjusted rushing net expected points per play. In other words, they surrendered the most points to opposition via the run than any other team in the NFL. Their efficiency was borderline atrocious.
That continued into Week 2, and the good news is that David Wilson wasn’t the biggest offender. Brandon Jacobs carried the ball seven times for four yards, and Da’Rel Scott had five attempts for just two. Though Wilson’s seven for 17 was bad, it was at least the best of the three. And, as noted above, the Giants favorable drives against Denver involved Wilson over the other two backs.
You could make the argument that the Giants need David Wilson to have any semblance of a complete offense. Brandon Jacobs hasn’t been relevant since Conan O’Brien hosted The Tonight Show, and Da’Rel Scott’s efficiency numbers on his few attempts haven’t been anything but mediocre.
The Giants still haven’t won, and David Wilson still hasn’t been an integral part of their offense. Is it just a coincidence? (Perhaps – their defense has been miserable.)
You’re either a David Wilson owner or you’re not. If you are, you have four choices: drop him, start him, trade him, bench him.
Dropping him wouldn’t make much sense at this point. Unless you’re in a 6-team league, David Wilson’s going to be better than anything off your waiver wire.
Starting Wilson wouldn’t make much sense either, unless you’re completely desperate. The play calling disaster in New York can’t make you feel confident about slotting a guy like Wilson in your lineup.
Trading the Giants runner would be a strange thing to do. We all go with the “buy low, sell high” attitude in fantasy, and you’d be selling Wilson at his probable extreme low. Who are you going to get? Daniel Thomas? Is there a point?
Benching David Wilson is the only choice. It’s time to think of David Wilson as a high-upside play that has just as much of a chance of breaking out as any other benched running back. It’s a sad day for David Wilson owners, I know, but the instant you recognize the mess in New York, the instant you become a better fantasy owner. Keep him on your bench until you see a change of heart with the Giants coaching staff. If he has a breakout game from there, that’s fine – at least you know you didn’t make a reactionary move that could end up costing you the season.