Quincy Wilson was a bit of an enigma for Colts fans in 2017. Scouts praised him and described him as a tough and physical corner who was perfect for the kind of press man coverage the Colts liked to employ. The idea of Wilson across from Vontae Davis had us all excited about how the secondary could look, especially with ball-hawking Malik Hooker setting up deep in the safety position.
I won’t pretend I didn’t let my imagination run away with me for a brief moment thinking about what that unit could look like with the right development. But then training camp hit and Quincy was dealing with some minor soft tissue injuries. It was around that time that Pagano said this when asked about frustrating injuries in training camp:
But the young guys, they don’t have a clue. We’ve got them for nine weeks and then we have to cut them loose for five and you can’t do anything with them. You can’t talk to them, you can’t talk football, you can’t tell them what to put in their bodies and we’ve got to trust that they are doing the right thing. So that when they come back in five weeks, if they haven’t done what they’re supposed to do, there’s a good chance you’re going to pull – a really good chance.
The question that prompted that response was specific to the offense, and there was a good possibility that Dorsett and Moncrief were targets of that comment, but a part of me wonders about Wilson as well. Regardless, with the start of the regular season against the Rams, the Colts made the surprise last-minute move of T.J. Green from safety to cornerback with Vontae Davis out due to a groin tear. With Green getting the lion’s share of the snaps, Wilson did not see a great deal of playing time.
However, it did not take long to see that Green was overmatched and unprepared to take the field against NFL caliber offenses in anything more than a last-ditch circumstance. So in week two, Wilson saw his workload increase significantly. He also proved to be more than up to the task. I broke down his play from the first half here and the second half here.
It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was against a veteran quarterback and a very good offensive coach with a decent group of receivers. While there was plenty to improve upon, for a second-round draft pick, Colts fans were given reason to get excited about this kid.
In the week following the game against the Cardinals Wilson was listed as struggling with a knee injury of some kind or other. We wouldn’t see him again until December. At first, it was assumed that the issue was the knee problem lingering. However, starting with the game against the 49ers, Wilson was simply a healthy scratch. This might not have been as notable if it was not at a position where the Colts had a serious need for depth.
But as the season dragged on, some of us began to wonder if we had imagined his good play early on. Surely Pagano, developer of defensive backs, understood that playing a young cornerback was the best way to help him improve right? Perhaps that assumption was in itself flawed. Wilson didn’t play.
When asked, Pagano and Monachino talked about Wilson’s effort and attitude in practice. As a young cornerback, that is not entirely surprising. Cornerbacks have to be hard-headed, confident, mouthy, and often brash, to succeed at one of the game’s toughest positions.
So was Wilson’s benching the right call? We will never really know. We don’t know what caused it. If he had a poor attitude in practice or wasn’t doing his job or learning his assignments, benching him was a sure way to get his attention. It certainly fits the old school model of coaching that Pagano liked to follow.
But perhaps it would’ve been better to find another way. In sitting Wilson for an extended period of time, he lost out on valuable reps that would have prepared him for a larger role in the defense in the coming seasons. For his part when asked, Wilson said the right things. He was asked directly why he thought he wasn’t getting playing time. His response:
I don’t know, you’d have to ask the head coach about that. Every week I’m going into practice and making sure I’m staying on point and practicing hard.
When asked about Monachino’s assertion that it was related to effort and how well he was practicing, Wilson again said the right thing:
Maybe we saw different things. But if that’s what he says, I gotta do better.
When he finally got his shot against Buffalo, he made the most of it. Despite a messy game, Wilson played well. In the second half, he was put on Kelvin Benjamin who was easily handling UDFA cornerback Kenny Moore during the first half. He finished as the Colts’ top-graded defensive player on the day according to Pro Football Focus, and Benjamin’s production went quiet.
Through the end of the season, Wilson had a strong showing and looked like the same talent we saw back in week two. Did we miss out on a season of that level of play because he and Pagano could not get along in practice? Maybe we will never know.
Wilson did post this to his Instagram one day after Pagano was let go by the Colts:
Quincy Wilson on Instagram says he was a “caged animal” this past season.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) January 3, 2018
Wilson was sidelined for 5 games when healthy.
Will new coaching staff ‘uncage' him? pic.twitter.com/OFYld5fGyL
With the right coaching staff brought in, a caged animal might be just the kind of player the Colts have been missing, and personally, I cannot wait to see him unleashed on offenses next season.