2009 Season Retrospective: Pistol

Josh Wilson

2008

Highlights

Rams at Seahawks

...

2. Seattle dropped the left end and zone-blitzed St. Louis on the next play. Marc Bulger found a lane and zipped it to Donnie Avery, but Josh Wilson was all over him and tipped it away. Wilson may not get an easier matchup all season.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Seattle badly misread the end around and only persistent and alert play from Lucas saved them from worse damage. It was a classic case of broken contain. David Hawthorne owns the most responsibility. When Dallas motioned run right, Hawthorne was all over it, and when the action sped left, Hawthorne had no hope of recovery. A final detail worth noting: Seattle was in a 4-2 nickel. Reading the end around but knowing he had little chance to intercept, Josh Wilson didn't stop or ineffectually drift towards the play. No, Wilson saw Austin and bolted towards the end zone. He positioned himself to be a last line of defense should Austin break free. It's a wonder he wasn't needed.

Lions at Seahawks

Game Ball: Josh Wilson recorded his first tackle a yard before the first down marker. Hawthorne would follow with a tackle for no gain to force the field goal attempt. Jason Hanson missed. From there he was pretty quiet. He might be seen tackling his receiver where he stood like against Bryant Johnson in the second quarter, but he wasn't seen much.

Detroit is a bad passing offense and Kelly Jennings could disappear in the folds of their failure, but for Wilson, this was step up time against a corps of tall, powerful receivers. He wasn't leapt over or bullied out. When Megatron went high over him on a critical fourth quarter pass attempt, Wilson stuck in and disrupted the catch. Today was a training wheels step towards starting, but Wilson kept it level and finished off flying. The Seahawks need Pistol to turn his quiet day with an "!" into the beginning of a beautiful career at right corner.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Josh Wilson: Who would think Wilson would look like the best cover corner Seattle had today? Pistol isn't too good at that, actually, but small samples may contain outliers. He needs to be facing the quarterback to be his best and the game plan to man up the Cardinals defenders and hope they can buy the pass rush time stopped working in the second. Wilson recovered well, showed some man ability and kept overall his guy close, boosting his campaign for starting right corner. He wasn't great, but he was good at something he doesn't do and against the league's best wide receiver corps.

49ers at Seahawks

Josh Wilson made one important play, contacting Josh Morgan on a short pass on third and 10, and throwing Morgan out bounds to end the drive and stop the clock.

...

Josh Wilson was the best all around cornerback playing today. He is a fiend against the wide receiver screen, aware and responsive to his surroundings like a Shaolin Monk. Wilson isn't a stride-for-stride, Asomugha-like shutdown corner. He's a zone corner, but a hell of a zone corner, and drafted to play in a zone scheme. He was supposed to be Ronde. He's supposed to bury the screen, intercept the bounce, jump the route and find the fumble and fly.

...

Here's where hustle gets its due: Wilson started the play just outside the tackle box and in position to be blocked by a pulling lineman. And so he was. Right tackle Adam Snyder pulled out and put a body on Pistol, but Pistol didn't quit. He went high on Snyder and yanked him aside by the shoulder pads. Back in the scrum, Babineaux recovered and punched out the fumble. Gore was attempting to wrestle his ankle free and somewhat atop Terrill. The ball bounced forward and toward no team in particular before a streaking Wilson looped into the action and recovered for 43 yards.

It was the single most important play of the game, worth 30% of win probability, worth more than Matt Hasselbeck's late strike to Deon Butler, and more than the field goal that won it. It ended a menacing looking drive by San Francisco that had advanced into Seahawks territory and flipped field position. Seattle took the lead on the ensuing drive.

Seahawks at Texans

Josh Wilson ran down the field and tipped away a deep pass. That was an exciting display of man cover for the kid and a small, small-small step towards realizing his potential. Wilson might settle at nickel and he is already a fine situational defensive back, but there's room for Pistol to develop into a Antoine Winfield type corner.

Lowlights

Seahawks at 49ers

Think Seattle's starters shouldn't be returning kicks? Think valuable players at positions without depth especially should not be returning kick? I think we can add Josh Wilson to the list of players injured while returning. Marques Harris ankle tackled Wilson and Wilson did not return for the second half.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Seattle started the game sloppy. Josh Wilson covered Miles Austin on his 10 yard completion. Wilson backed off before the snap and Austin shook coverage with his cut. Austin curled back and Wilson bit deep, allowing Austin an easy reception in the right flat.

...

Seattle's ability to force third and long by stifling the run game was undermining the overall defense. It's maddening. It's infuriating watching Patrick Crayton run past the marker and quick-curl without a man within three yards of him. Deon Grant was assigned over coverage and dropped deep. Josh Wilson was assigned under coverage and played the passing lane. Romo effortlessly split the two and found Crayton for 16 and the first.

Seahawks at Texans

3. [Aaron Curry] Timed and blitzed perfectly off right end, but lands only an after the fact hit on Matt Schaub. Josh Wilson was burned badly on this play. Ron Pitts called it a nightmare play for a nickelback because the slot receiver has a two way go. Wilson was burned defending the outside route when David Anderson cut in on a post.

Outlook: Wilson is a controversial player. He produces highlights. He is hard working, ultra-competitive and athletically gifted. His one major tools weakness is his height, and though his height is not irrelevant, the limitations it puts on his ceiling are trumped up. Wilson is built like Antoine Winfield but has better speed, better quickness and better ball skills.

The real matter regarding Wilson, his weakness rather than limitation, is that Wilson struggles with pure cover. He can be greedy and lose himself watching the quarterback. That tendency causes him to sit on routes and react slowly to breaks. He doesn't always time his jumps perfectly and for a short player in a division stacked with jump-ball specialists, that hurts. It truly is tremendously hard to play both receiver and ball and only the very finest corners are capable. Wilson mostly plays the ball.

There is an equilibrium he is trending towards that should make him a good overall corner. Last season was his best pure cover season of his young career. His interception total was below his average, but he notched more passes defended in fewer snaps than 2007 and 2008 combined. His gambling nature means he will always be prone to up and down performances, somewhat akin to Asante Samuel, but as long as he covers enough, and picks his spots, his big play potential will make him a very valuable player.

Samuel's 2006 makes for an interesting comparison. Samuel was 25, had six interceptions and three forced fumbles through three seasons, identical to Wilson. Samuel had fewer starts but for a better team. I am not sure Samuel was head-and-shoulders better in 2006 than he had been in 2005, but his string of opponents helped him shine. Samuel had 10 interceptions, three against Rex Grossman, two against Joey Harrington, two against Vince Young, and one apiece against Jon Kitna, J.P. Losman and David Carr.

Wilson has that ten-pick potential and this season he faces a run of quarterbacks that might make it possible.

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