EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the first time since the Super Bowl champion New York Giants reported to training camp, first-round draft pick David Wilson is nervous.
It’s not the nervousness associated with the fear of failing, the running back from Virginia Tech is just excited heading into the third week of the preseason.
With veteran starter Ahmad Bradshaw limited by a bruised right hand, Wilson has been getting the majority of carries with the first team at practice. It doesn’t mean he is going to start against the Chicago Bears on Friday night at home, but it is a very good indication he is going to get the ball a lot.
“Each week I look at it as an opportunity to prove yourself and move up on the depth chart,” Wilson said Tuesday after practice. “This week, they moved me up tremendously and are giving me a shot, so you definitely want to take advantage of that.”
The 32nd pick in the draft, Wilson came into training camp behind Bradshaw on the depth chart, and is probably heavily favored to beat out veteran D.J.Ware as the No. 2 back.
Wilson hasn’t disappointed the Giants (No. 3 in the AP Pro32). After two preseason games, he leads the team in rushing with 69 yards on 15 carries, a 4.6 yard average.
Most of his yardage has come against the second and third teams of Jacksonville and the Jets, so this will be his chance to showcase himself against a front-line defense.
“I just want to go out there and be productive with the first-team offense and show I deserve more with the first-team offense,” said Wilson, who rushed for a school-record 1,709 yards with the Hokies last season. “I’m a rookie and I’m learning, and the running back protecting the quarterback is a big role. They’re not going to put you out there until they know you know your role and you’ve proven you’re ready.”
Wilson gave an indication that he could be trusted when he picked up a Jets’ blitz against David Carr last weekend. With two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning at quarterback this week, the pressure will be greater.
Manning is eager to see Wilson play, adding this will be a great learning experience for him.
“I thought he runs hard,” Manning said. “He runs and lowers his shoulder and delivers a powerful punch. That’s his style. That powerful running back is kind of a New York tradition. Even though he is not considered the big back that the Giants have been known for, he still runs hard, like a lot of running backs here do.”
Wilson liked the compliment, but said there is more to his game.
“I just go play,” he said. “I don’t look at one aspect of my game and focus on that. I try to be a back that can do everything. When I am on the field, I just go play.”
During the opening days of training camp, Bradshaw said Wilson was making too many moves when running instead of picking a hole and going straight into it.
Wilson smiled when asked about it, saying he hasn’t changed his style. His knowledge of the offense is better, though.
“I know the playbook more, so I know what to expect a little bit,” he said. “When I first got here I barely knew the playbook and the plays, and I just knew enough that the coaches would say ‘messing up’ and start screaming at me. When you get more into detail in the playbook and know what you are doing, you can become more of yourself.”
If Wilson is anything like last year, the Giants, who had the NFL’s worst rushing offense, are going to love him. He rushed for 100 yards in 10 of 14 games and scored nine touchdowns on the ground.
“He has definitely got people excited with what he has done,” guard Chris Snee said. “To go against a first-team defense, especially the Bears, a very good defense, will be a good test for all of us and also for him.
Wilson said the key is not to try to do too much.
“In my position in this league you can’t go out there and try to make the big play all the time, at least I’m not comfortable to go out there and do it now,” Wilson said. “You can turn a bad play into a worse play by always trying to have the greatest play.”