Wilson only played 12 snaps but was impressive with a pressure and a defensive stop as a run defender to earn a 70.5 overall PFF grade. He flashed some of those physical traits that were raved about throughout the NFL Draft process and the tape was a lot of fun to watch.
I’m going to start this first clip by acknowledging the 100-pound mismatch in Wilson’s favor as the Cowboys run a pin-and-pull concept and attempt to block him with a wide receiver. The results are as you would expect with Wilson physically dominating, but that’s not what stands out to me the most about this rep.
Pin-and-pull runs are designed to catch the defense off-guard, and specifically the edge player. The wide receiver comes from the edge’s blind spot and crack blocks, allowing the receiver to pin the edge inside as it’s difficult for the defender to see the block coming.
However, Wilson does an excellent job of recognizing that the tight end and offensive tackle are pulling outside of the formation, and he redirects his eyes and hands to take on the receiver’s block. That’s where the mismatch comes into play, and the fact he was able to quickly recognize the blocking scheme after missing so much practice is an encouraging sign.
Now, I would like to see him work over the top of the block more, but he at least doesn’t get pinned inside and helps stretch the play wider, giving the backside linebacker enough time to fill the alley and takeaway the cutback lane.
You’ve probably seen this next clip floating around on social media as it went viral on Sunday.
Wilson lines up wide, outside of the slot receiver/tight end, and does an excellent job of turning speed to power as a pass-rusher. Once he gets off the ball and reaches about four yards in the backfield, he plants his outside foot in the ground and makes contact with the offensive with his hands perfectly placed on the tackle’s chest.
That allows him to get a little lift on the tackle and gain a leverage advantage, and then we see those 35-inch arms come to good use as he’s able to get extension and the offensive lineman can’t get his hands set. Wilson also keeps his legs pumping through contact and that allows him to push the blocker to the other side of the center and force the quarterback to move.
He could do a better job of getting off the block to go get the sack, but I’ll take a rep like this as someone else (i.e. Maxx Crosby) should be able to clean this up when the starters are in.
Here’s where I think Wilson’s lack of elite athleticism, and the fact he’s coming off a foot injury, can come back to bite him. This is a tough play for a defensive end as the Cowboys run a play-action bootleg where the tight end engages with him off of the snap and then releases.
But once Wilson doesn't feel pressure anymore, he needs to work flat down the five-yard line to try and meet the quarterback near the line of scrimmage and prevent the walk-in touchdown. Instead, he takes a pretty rounded cut and ends up chasing from the 10-yard line, and he has no chance to contain the QB at that point.
Again, this is a tough play and getting into nitpicky territory, but it is an area where he can improve down the line.
Here’s where the defensive stop mentioned above came from. The Texas Tech product is head up on the offensive tackle and it looks like the Raiders are asking him to two-gap. At the point of attack, Wilson gets his hands inside and has solid leverage by getting his helmet underneath the tackle’s, allowing him to gain control of the block.
Wilson also makes sure to keep his helmet inside to protect the B-gap first, and his hands and leverage allow him to escape the block and make the play for a short gain. Also, a shoutout to fellow rookie defensive lineman Byron Young for holding up at the point of attack.
This next clip isn’t a terrible rep by Wilson, but he has to be more physically dominant against a rookie tight end. He’s able to stay in his gap, but he needs to use his strength and those long arms to bench-press the tight end off of his chest and get extension from the block. That’s a big reason why he ends up on the ground and fails at escaping the block across the tight end’s face.
Dallas runs outside zone here to the weak side, but Wilson gets his hands right on the tackle’s chest and takes on the block with a wide base to set the edge. Now, he can get more extension on the block as he’s still learning how to use his long arms/physical gifts more consistently, but the rookie does his job by forcing the running back to cut inside as Luke Masterson comes and cleans it up for a short gain.
We’ll end with another quality rep as a pass rusher. Wilson turns speed to power and while his get-off is a little slow, he never stops moving his feet and puts the tackle on the tackle’s heels. Also, watch how Wilson is unimpeded by the running back’s chip block and uses his outside hand to get the tackle’s hand off of his body.
The latter forces the blocker to turn his outside shoulder, shortening the corner/path to the quarterback for the pass rusher. Will Grier throws the ball in rhythm so nothing comes of the rush for Wilson, but any later and this might be a sack. Also, a shoutout to Nesta Jade Silvera for a nice bull rush.