After being selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, David Wilson was regarded as one of the class’ top 5 running backs. Many even expected him to eventually gain the starting job in his rookie season. This never materialized, however, Wilson did show plenty of promise in his first year after rushing for 358 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 71 carries (5.0 YPC).
He had hoped to carry this momentum into his second season. But Wilson saw his year cut short after suffering spinal stenosis in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He underwent neck surgery on January 4th, 2014, with doctors warning that he still faced the risk of injury if he played again.
Wilson tried to defy the doctors’ advice this offseason and was a candidate to win the Giants’ starting running back job. However, Wilson’s neck once again broke down, prompting him to retire from football. Here’s what the 23-year-old said on his retirement:
I’m thankful that I can literally walk away from the game and that I am healthy and capable of doing the same things I have done all my life, except play football. I always try to find the positive in everything. This morning when I saw Dr. [Frank] Cammisa and Dr. [Russell] Warren, I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear, but I expected that what they told me could be a possibility. I had played out both scenarios in my mind. I prayed this morning before I went to see them that they would tell me what God would tell me. He put His answer in them to relay to me.
Wilson suffered a “burner,” or nerve injury, in practice last week. So he went back to his doctors, who advised the former Virginia Tech star to not play football again. Wilson isn’t officially calling this a “retirement” because he can’t claim injury protection on his salary as a retired player. But it’s pretty clear that he’s finished on the gridiron.
“I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me, or pity me,” said Wilson. “I lived my dream. A lot of people only get to dream their dream. I lived that dream. Now I have a chance to dream another dream and live that, too.”
Now that Wilson is officially done playing football, this gives New York one less legitimate option at running back. According to depth charts, new acquisition Rashad Jennings is number one at the position. Jennings had a career year in Oakland last season after rushing for 733 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also showed another dimension by catching 47 passes for 292 yards.
However, Jennings has never been a featured back for a full season. He was given a chance during Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout in 2013, only to fall flat on his face with 283 yards on 101 carries (2.8 YPC). Jennings brings more promise this year, but he’s unlikely to carry the full load.
He’ll share time with Peyton Hillis, who joined the Giants for the last seven games of 2013. The bruising 250-pound fullback gained 247 rushing yards and scored 2 TD’s on 73 carries. Like Jennings, Hillis can also catch the ball as he showed with 13 grabs for 96 yards in limited action.
Rookie Andre Williams is going to compete for carries too. The fourth-round pick out of Boston College looked good in New York’s first preseason game after running for 37 yards and a TD on five carries. Williams also played some first-team snaps, indicating that coach Tom Coughlin might have big plans for the rookie already. The 21-year-old led the NCAA in rushing last season with 2,177 yards. However, he also needs to work on his pass-catching skills and blocking.
New York struggled to run the ball last season, putting more pressure on Eli Manning to make plays, which resulted in 27 interceptions for him. So if you’re expecting to do some New York Giants betting in 2014, keep in mind that their running game doesn’t appear to be solved right now – especially with David Wilson done for good. But on the other hand, this team does have some new faces and options. And who knows…maybe the committee of Jennings, Williams and Hillis can move the ball this season.