It had been about nine months since Las Vegas Raiders rookie defensive lineman Tyree Wilson had stepped on a football field with pads on, but Wilson finally got to join his teammates on the practice field last Wednesday during the Raiders training camp.
The top 10 pick suffered a foot injury in mid-November of his last season at Texas Tech and missed the Red Raiders’ final three games of the year. He later had surgery to repair the ailment, causing him to miss all pre-draft workouts—except for the bench press at the combine, where he put up 23 reps—and all of the Raiders’ spring practices.
Wilson was able to participate in team meetings to start learning the playbook and has been diligent about picking up the system, according to defensive line coach Rob Leonard, but he did miss roughly the first two and a half weeks of practice while on the NFI list.
While it is good to see him back in pads, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed noted that Wilson is still on a pitch count, so to speak.
“There was some buzz before practice, as rookie defensive end Tyree Wilson was activated from the non-football injury list and made his Raiders practice debut,” Tafur and Reed wrote. “The first-round pick is still ramping himself up from the foot surgery he had in November, so he’s being limited to individual drills. He didn’t participate in one-on-one or team drills against the Rams.”
Head coach Josh McDaniels later said that the coaching staff is going to ease the rookie back into the swing of things, but McDaniels has been satisfied with what he’s seen from Wilson so far.
“It’s different when you’re carrying pads in heat and a little humidity,” McDaniels replied when asked for his thoughts on the Texas Tech product’s debut. “It’s just different than being in shorts and a t-shirt and doing some workouts on your own. So, being able to lean on some bigger bodies and to pass rush and some of those things, you got to get used to it.
“All of us had to go through the acclamation phase. His is obviously going to be a little bit more tempo here as we go. Just so we can make sure that we keep taking steps in the right direction. But he came out and did what we wanted him to do yesterday, and then we’ll go ahead and do the same thing today.”
And McDaniels isn’t the only one who has been impressed with Wilson during his limited action. Veteran defensive tackle also weighed in on his new teammate and was enamored with the rookie’s physical gifts
“I mean, you can’t teach size, right?” Jenkins’s said of his first impressions of Wilson. “So, for him to be able to do what he’s doing now and just watching a little glimpse of potential, it’s a beautiful thing. Now, he just needs to build the confidence and I’m glad to have him on the team.”
Tyree Wilson getting coached to get his hands up faster. Second day back at practice for Wilson so he’s gotta shake off the rust and catch up.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) August 17, 2023
Can’t teach that length. pic.twitter.com/sP40rjXYRC
Part of Wilson’s initial days of practice has been picking the brain of Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby as the latter has taken the former under his wing. Crosby was also quick to sing his new mentee’s praises.
“No doubt, no doubt,” Crosby replied when asked if he’s finding Wilson to be teachable. “This was his first day out there with us. So, he wasn’t able to go in team and things like that, but you see him asking a ton of questions and getting better. So, it’s awesome to see him out there with us.
“...It was definitely exciting [to have Wilson at practice], Crosby continued. “Before practice I saw him getting ready, I didn’t know he was going to be out there today, so it gave me a rush, it gave everybody a rush. We’re excited to get him back and get him in the mix.”
As for what’s in store for the former Red Raider this season, Reed outlined what to expect from him in 2023.
“Crosby and [Chandler] Jones are ahead of Wilson on the depth chart,” Reed explained. “And, barring injury, that’ll remain the same when the season starts. The plan is for Wilson to serve as a third pass rusher this year while also having the ability to rotate inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.”
Something that could change that though is Jordan Willis put together a two-sack performance against the San Francisco 49ers and might take on the third down edge rusher role to start the season. Also, Isaac Rochell recorded a sack and a couple of defensive stops against the run versus the 49ers, heightening the competition for playing time at edge.
“The Raiders want [Wilson] to contribute, of course, but 2023 will be more about learning from Crosby and Jones, refining his game and preparing himself to step into a larger role moving forward,” Reed concluded.
So, Wilson has looked sharp to start his professional career but has to make up for lost time to make an impact early in the regular season when the games start counting.