Whether the New York Jets like it or not, the 2014 season will be a trying one in the secondary. As we all know, this year’s training camp leaves the Jets with serious injuries to anticipated cornerback Dee Milliner, rookie Dexter McDougle, and veteran Dimitri Patterson.
With all the chaos in the secondary, the spotlight inherently falls on the next guys in line. Case in point: the Jets were forced to play safety Antonio Allen at play corner in the preseason and during practices because of the litany of injuries.
Another player that has been thrust into the front-view mirror for the Jets is Kyle Wilson, the Jets’ wildly inconsistent draft pick from 2010. After all, seemingly everyone has regarded Wilson as a castaway over the last five years in New York – and that includes fans, media, and opposing quarterbacks.
The Jets, however, are clearly entering a critical 2014 season after several years of 8-8, exacerbating the cornerback woes even more. But Rex Ryan – apparently – thinks Wilson can show his worth.
Whether Ryan’s quote is accurate or not is irrelevant. Whether Wilson responds to the expectations is another thing.
“What do you see in [Wilson]?” a reporter asked.
“I see Kyle as a player that’s playing better with more confidence than I’ve seen him play with in the past,” Ryan said on Monday at Jets’ training camp in Florham Park, New Jersey.
“So, do you like [Wilson] as a player?” the reporter followed.
“I expect this to be his finest year,” Ryan said, after gathering his thoughts. “He’s worked extremely hard; he knows the system. … There have been a couple of plays in the preseason that we aren’t talking about where he did a tremendous job. He’s in great shape coverage-wise.
“So, again, I think he’s going to have a good year for us.”
Maybe Rex was a little overboard with his expectations of Wilson, but the simple reality is this: Whether he’s capable of it or not, the Jets will need Wilson to have the finest season of his career.
Let’s make things clear: the Jets and Ryan would rather not put Wilson in this position, for all the obvious reasons. But with the depleted secondary, the high stakes in 2014, the Jets need Wilson to be the corner they thought he would be in the 2010 Draft. They need someone to step up at the corner position in 2014, and Wilson may be that guy.
Now, I can already visualize the sarcastic comments from disbelieving Jets fans. I know Wilson has struggled mightily throughout his career with the Jets. I understand Wilson hasn’t (on the surface) improved much from his rookie season. I agree that he has been a cornerback you have to worry about every Sunday.
Trust me. Rex Ryan watches the same game Jets fans do, and notices the mistakes Wilson makes.
But in 2014, with the cornerback position in shambles, Rex Ryan understands better than any of us that he needs to get the most out of the remaining corners, and Kyle Wilson is a guy that needs all the encouragement he can.
Yes, I know I’m making it seem like Wilson is the Pop Warner kid being slapped on the back by and told, “Go get ’em next time,” by his over-enthusiastic coach.
Here’s the thing: 2014 is the ‘next time’ for Wilson, even if he didn’t ask for it. Whether Rex Ryan’s quote on Monday is accurate or not is irrelevant, because it sounds a little biased considering Wilson’s past with the Jets. But whether Wilson responds to the praise is another thing, because the Jets don’t just want Wilson to become a big piece in 2014. They need Wilson to become a big piece in 2014.
And at the end of the day, that’s all Rex was saying. He was saying that they need Wilson, because they have nobody else. And on Wilson’s part, this serves as a challenge but also an encouragement – wrapped in one statement. So if there is a major takeaway from Monday’s press conference, it’s that the Jets need Wilson desperately, even if it’s hard to fathom for Jets fans.