Know this first and foremost: Redskins’ cornerback Josh Wilson has a unique way of getting his point across.
It’s been said that every season, Washington Redskins fans find something to get too excited about. In 2009 it was the arrival of defensive end Albert Haynesworth as an important addition to an already stout defense. In 2010 was the acquisition of quarterback Donovan McNabb who was going to provide talent, veteran leadership and experience. This past 2011 season it was adding defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen – and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe; plus the fact that the team was entering Year Two of the 3-4 defense that had fans riled up. This season, RedskinsNation is enamored with their new quarterback out of Baylor University, Robert Griffin, III.
The fans are not the only ones fired up about their new quarterback. Griffin’s teammates are excited as well and cornerback Josh Wilson, though playing on the opposite side of the field, talked about – in a way that only he can – why he is enthusiastic about his team’s new signal caller and the coming season.
Speaking with host/owner Lake Lewis during SportsJourney Broadcast Network’s Training Camp Kick-off show at the Green Turtle in Olney, Maryland, Wilson explained some of the things about Griffin that make the quarterback special.
“The thing about this guy is, he can launch the ball,” Wilson said. “If the pocket does happen to collapse he has the ability to do what a DB hates: he can make the play last longer. He’ll stretch the play out and that makes it hard for us as defensive backs and defensive players. He has just exceptional, exceptional talent. Once he gets everything clicking together, I can’t wait. I’m glad to have somebody that brings a spark to that offense and now the defense has everybody on the same page – me included.
“The best defense is a great offense. (Wilson chuckles) I don’t mind sitting over there watching them!”
Since coming to Washington, the Baylor star has been the center of attention, both locally and nationally. With his accomplishments* at Baylor, the fact that he was the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (what the Redskins gave up has already been widely publicized … let’s just say he cost the team a LOT) and because he is about as athletic and charismatic as they come; it’s easy to understand all of the hype.
If things go the way the coaching staff and fans think they will, everything that Griffin brings to the team will help Wilson do that ‘watching’ that he doesn’t mind doing so much. The Redskins’ defense definitely got better last season but there were still games during which they had problems.
“Let’s face it,” Lewis said. “You guys were on the field quite a bit [last season]. A quarterback that can give you – as opposed to three-and-outs at times or maybe five-play drives for the series – if he can keep you moving down the field for at least just six or seven more plays. Even if you have to punt, you’ve moved the ball. It changes the whole complexion of the game.”
In seven of the Redskins’ 11 losses in 2011, they were within seven points of their opponent in the third quarter. In six of the 11 losses, they lost by a touchdown or less. Granted, there were a few losses that were by larger margins (I won’t mention the game against the Buffalo Bills) but they did sweep the Superbowl winning New York Giants by nice margins of 14 and 13 points respectively (with Wilson having a key interception in the end zone in the second game).
When the defense gets some rest during the first 45 minutes of a game, the fourth quarter goes better for the team. The Redskins’ average defensive time of possession was 30:09 in 2011. The Superbowl champion New York Giants’ defense was on the field an average of 30:13 in the same season and the second-place New England Patriots’ defense was on the field for an average of 31 minutes and 13 seconds: both longer than the Redskins. The Indianapolis Colts – the worst team in the league by W-L record, topped out at 33 minutes and 47 seconds.
In 2010 the Redskins’ defensive time of possession was 32:54 although there are certainly other statistics besides time-of-possession that would indicate how good or bad the team was. But if you just calculate improvement by how long the defense was on the field, one would have to say that the Redskins improved from 2010 to 2011.
“Man, just changing that field position [helps]”, Wilson said. “A lot of times it is about field position and just time. If you can give us six plays [off of the field], that’s amazing. It’s tough when, as a defensive player, you have a long drive and then you get right back out there after [the offense has] had a three-and-out. You didn’t even get a chance to correct the mistakes you had in the last drive. You didn’t even have a chance to sit down. That gets tiring and it can wear on you. During a game you’re ready to go. You get in that fourth quarter you’ve had three-and-outs all day? It doesn’t matter what the score is.”
Wilson then went on with a lengthy but very funny explanation about the things that are coming together in 2012 that will make it a better season all around:
“I just think that Griffin… he just has a knack for making plays,” the cornerback said. “This is a talented kid. I’ve seen this kid throw it 70 yards like it’s nothing.
“He’s all that ‘opposite-against-the-grain-overthrow-Pierre [Garçon]’. We’re all like: ‘hold your arm back a little bit!’
“No. This kid has a lot of talent. That’s what I’m excited about as a defensive player. Looking at our defense, we’re bringing back nine-out-of-11 starters. We’re replacing only the two safeties. We’ve got [safety] Brandon [Merriweather] back there. I played against Brandon when he was with Miami and then we played in the Senior Bowl together. He’ll come up and hit you AND he has range. You know, people forget he’s a two-time Pro Bowler… This guy can play football.
“[Safety] Tanard Jackson… I played with him. He grew up in Maryland. These guys are players. At one point he was the highest paid free safety in the league. People gotta remember that these guys can play and we’re bringing them into a defense that… we were pretty good last year despite being on the field for a majority of the game. Haslett, myself… I mean, I only [was able] to learn the defense for a week and I had to go play that first preseason game. It was tough. I tell people even now, it was probably mid-way through the season before I actually knew the defense.
“I played that first game against the Giants and they made some calls and I looked over at [then Redskins’ safety] O.J. [Atogwe] and I was like, ‘what does that mean?’
“So, we had a secondary trying to mesh together and a lot of new pieces,” Wilson finished up, “[Defensive linemen] Stephen Bowen and [Barry] Cofield and myself… we were just trying to figure things out on the run. So, if we erase that part of it and, going into this thing now… I can make the calls. I know what’s supposed to be happening, I can do a lot more than I was able to do last year. Now it’s allowing me to be the aggressor on offense. Now the offense has to figure out what I’m in instead of ME trying to figure out what I’m in.”
Wilson came to the Redskins from the Baltimore Ravens who play more press coverage in the secondary. This makes it even more amazing that Wilson was effective at all in the first half of last season after signing here so late in the off-season (July 27th). Part of the reason he could do his job at all was because of the supporting cast around him. The defense got better as the season went on despite contrary statistics and a lack of huge individual big plays. Wilson likes what he sees coming in 2012 on the defense.
“We’ve got two guys – Rak and Ryan coming off of the edge that can really create havoc.”
Lewis asked Wilson about second year defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins who the public only had the pleasure of watching in the preseason last season but who showed every indication that he was worth the second round draft pick that Shanahan spent on him.
“I never had the opportunity of playing with him,” the area native said of Jenkins, “But this guy in practices… I’m telling you. I’m excited. As a defensive player, our defense is getting excited because now we’re going to that next step. Now we’re not just trying to learn each other, meshing or trying to figure out what’s what anymore. We’re all, ‘Alright, we know how to do the simple stuff. We know how to do what it says in the book. Now how can we tweak this to make it so that in the secondary, I can light it up at safety.’ You never know what position we’re playing now and when the offense has to figure out what you’re doing once the ball is snapped, you’re in the driver’s seat.”
Wilson signed a three-year deal when he came to Washington last season but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to watch out for his job. Anyone who covers the Redskins knows that head coach Mike Shanahan is all about the competition. Starting opposite DeAngelo Hall in 2011, he now has to worry about seven-year veteran Cedric Griffin (although he might be seen more in the nickel packages), rookie Richard Crawford and Kevin Barnes (who the Redskins drafted four years ago) at the minimum. There could be others brought in or others already on the team moved into the position. But Wilson, like most players, wants as much on-the-field time as he can get.
“I want to do it all. If they would let me play offense, I’d play offense,” he joked (or maybe not!). “I’m just saying, I lead the league at one time in kickoff returns, don’t forget. I can pull up some film where I pulled on the Redskins, you know what I mean?” Laughing here but then more determined, “Seriously, I’m always trying to do as much as I can. I want to face the best; I want to be the best… whatever I can. I’m excited for this year because I want to get out there and show people what I can do. Because last year… I mean, I’m better than I was last year. By the end of the year I started hitting my strides because I knew what I was doing.
“When you can take that hesitation out of your game, it’s fun. You can play around, do some things. It makes it exciting to be out there instead of being like, ‘Man, I hope they don’t figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing.’
“I’m excited. D [Hall] has some things that he does that are great. We’re going to try to make those things shine this year and make some more plays. Ced[ric Griffin] is out there making plays. He’s gonna come out there and do some things. I think we’re gonna set fire to the line.
“With [defensive backs coach] Raheem [Morris] back there… Raheem is filling us with that knowledge, getting us ready for games back there. He’s a great coach. I had him in the Senior Bowl. You know, this guy’s a head coach. Our position coach… We told him when he came that we appreciated him humbling himself to come and teach us and to take us to that next level.”
Wilson has obviously thought about what winning can do for Washington fans as well as just him and the team. And he was complimentary about the passion of RedskinsNation.
“One thing we understand is that, it’s not just about going out there and doing it for the team,” he said. “This is my city. We have people that are hungry to win. If we turn this thing around and we’re doing it, we’ve got Redskins fans that are born and bred deep… still wearing the colors no matter what our record is! That is deep and that’s what I like. In Seattle? Yea… they’ve got the fans but that was because we were winning. But we had one season when we weren’t winning and that stadium was getting really empty.”
*Half of his 36 TD passes at Baylor covered 35 yards or more, he set the single-season passing efficiency record [192.31], he returned his alma mater to competitiveness by helping it obtain its first 9-win season since 1986 thanks, in part, to his 10.8 yards-per-pass which was third-best in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A) history behind Philadelphia Eagles’ QB Michael Vick and Ty Detmer and his 2012 Heisman Trophy award.