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Film Room: Quincy Wilson’s Peculiar Sophomore Season

Quincy Wilson has played well after starting the season slow

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In GM Chris Ballard’s first draft with the Colts in 2017, he selected Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson in the second round. The pick was almost unanimously regarded as a solid one as many analysts had Wilson as a first round player. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller even touted Wilson as the top cornerback in the class. So, there was a lot to be excited about in the Colts’ fanbase when they landed this perceived “steal” in the second round.

Wilson’s rookie season however was not as good as promised. Wilson struggled to see the field under lame duck coach Chuck Pagano, only playing in seven games as a rookie. He played in the first two games of 2017 before being sidelined with an injury. Once Wilson recovered from that injury though, he remained on the sidelines as a healthy scratch for some unknown reason. He finished the year with 22 tackles, 6 pass deflections, and one interception.

In this piece, I’ll be doing something a little bit different from previous season film rooms. I’m going to be chronicling Wilson’s up and down season by going game by game and discussing Wilson’s play and impact in those games. Obviously I will be adding some film analysis to these game by game summaries. I hope to show all of you by the end of this piece that Wilson has gone from second round bust who has struggled to improve to key role player in a young, promising defense.

Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals

Many Colts fans remember this week as Wilson’s worst of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson was targeted four times in that game, allowing four receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. Wilson logged his third highest snap count total of the season with 40 snaps (71.4 % of total snaps). Overall Wilson really struggled with the speed of the Bengals’ offense. He really struggled in man coverage and played very passively in zone. He looked like a young player with zero confidence on the field in this game.

On this play here, Wilson is in man coverage at the top of the screen across from A.J Green. Wilson retreats quickly at the snap of the ball, likely to account for Green’s speed advantage. Once Green catches the ball, Wilson is very passive in his pursuit forward. The Colts run a very aggressive zone scheme that wants their corners to come downhill fast and confidently. Kenny Moore II, for instance, always does this. Wilson however hesitates on this play and that leads to him breaking down and lunging for the tackle of Green, resulting in a missed tackle.

Here is definitely one of Wilson’s low-lights of the season. He is lined up again in man coverage against Green, at the bottom of the screen this time. Wilson actually does a good job of mirroring Green off of the line and flipping his hips to get vertical with him. Where Wilson loses the route is when he fails to contact Green once he approaches Wilson’s zone of the field. Wilson needs to make contact there and squeeze Green more to the sideline to make this throw more difficult. On top of this, Green just wins with pure speed and athleticism. Wilson finishes off the poor rep by interfering with Green just before the goal line.

In this last rep, Wilson is just beat thoroughly off of the line of scrimmage by John Ross. Wilson has the advantage of length in this matchup and fails to use it. He needed to give a hard jam to Ross and stop Ross’ feet from moving at the line. Ross gets a fairly clean release however and is able to beat Wilson to the corner for the touchdown. Wilson is noticeably frustrated after giving up this touchdown. Just an overall poor game from a corner with little confidence. Playing corner in the NFL is such a mind game and playing at such a low confidence level against skill players like the Bengals have is a recipe for disaster.

Week 2: Washington Redskins

Wilson barely played in this week two matchup against the Redskins, likely due to his first week performance and because he suffered a concussion early in the game. He ended up logging just 13 snaps (17.6% of the total defensive snaps). He allowed one catch on one target for seven yards. The defense stepped up to the plate and performed very well once Wilson left the game. Emerging in Wilson’s place was journeyman corner Pierre Desir who has held the starting spot on the outside ever since this game.

Weeks 3-5: Concussion

In the following three weeks, Wilson would miss games due to the concussion he suffered against the Redskins. After a poor off-season and a poor showing in week one, many fans were growing frustrated with Wilson during his time out here with a concussion. While he was out, the defense performed very well too as cornerbacks Kenny Moore II and Pierre Desir locked down the starting spots on the outside. This only added to the frustration from the fans.

Week 6: New York Jets

Wilson returned to action in week six against the Jets. He was obviously eased into action as he only played in 11 total snaps ( 15.5% of total defensive snaps). Although he barely played in this game, the Jets took advantage of him in coverage. He allowed four completions on four targets for 29 yards. The stats don’t look pretty here but he actually had a decent game in very limited action. Of the catches he “allowed”, most of them were when he was in zone coverage. So to me, I wouldn’t really count those as catches allowed in coverage. Still, this was not a highlight reel game for Wilson.

Week 7: Buffalo Bills

The season looked to be a horrible one for Wilson heading into the match-up with the Buffalo Bills. Wilson’s playing time hit a major low the week prior and Desir and Moore had firm control over the outside corner positions. Wilson, however, got his last big chance against the Bills and took full advantage of his opportunity. Due to injuries at corner (Nate Hairston) and safety (Matthias Farley), Wilson played 39 snaps in this game (69.6% of total defensive snaps). Wilson played some slot corner, some outside corner, some safety, and some nickel linebacker. Wilson played admirably in his new versatile role on the defense.

On this rep here, Wilson is lined up in the slot at the top of the screen against tight end Charles Clay. Wilson was used a lot in this game as the tight end eraser, tasked with following tight ends in man coverage on passing downs. Here he misses his press opportunity by failing to jam Clay at the line. He does recover very well however and is able to get into the throwing lane of the quarterback, causing the bad throw and incompletion.

On this rep, Wilson is lined up as the nickel linebacker along side Darius Leonard. I like this usage of Wilson as it adds more speed to the defense in an obvious passing situation. Wilson gets good depth on his drop here and forces Derek Anderson to dump it off short. Although Wilson doesn’t make the tackle here, he does fly to the ball carrier and throw his body at him. Remember earlier in this piece how hesitant he was to tackle A.J Green and that led to a missed tackle? Well here you can see he has more confidence to fly to the ball and attempt to quickly make the tackle. That is a noticeable improvement from earlier in the season.

This is one of my favorite reps on the season from Wilson. He is lined up in the bottom slot over the tight end Clay again on this play. One of Wilson’s biggest flaws in college and in his short NFL career is how poor he is in press. He struggles to be physical most times even through he is a bigger, lengthy corner. Here though, he gets really physical with Clay and completely disrupts his route. Moving Wilson to this nickel linebacker/ tight end eraser role was a risky move by the Colts’ coaching staff but it made perfect sense. If Wilson can bring this level of physicality to the position, his length and size can be a nightmare for opposing tight ends and running backs.

Last clip from this game but this is the NFL in a nutshell here. If you are in the right position and doing your assignment correctly, the ball will bounce your way. Here, Kemoko Turay forces a big fumble on Anderson and Wilson is able to scoop the ball up for a big return. Just a great way to top off Wilson’s best game of the season up to this point.

Week 8: Oakland Raiders

Wilson took a bit of a step back in this game, as he barely saw the field against the Raiders. Not much to the fault of Wilson however as the Raiders offense rarely faced third down of obvious passing situations, the situations that Wilson played a majority of his snaps in the week prior. Wilson only played in 11 total snaps (22% of the total defensive snaps) for the game. He allowed one catch on one target for two yards on the game.

Week 10: Jacksonville Jaguars

From week nine on, Wilson began playing much much better. He slowly began gaining confidence while working more in on the regular base defense— while still holding down his role as the tight end eraser/ nickel linebacker. Against the Jaguars, Wilson played in 52 snaps (69.3% of the total defensive snaps). He allowed five catches on six targets for 59 yards— most of these catches again were when he was in zone coverage.

Wilson is slowly gaining more confidence as a run defender. Here from his nickel linebacker position, Wilson comes downhill to tackle the running back on the check down from Blake Bortles. That hesitation that Wilson showed earlier in the season appears to be gone as he comes downhill fast here to make the tackle. I will note that Wilson did struggle a bit with angles in run support, but that is to be expected from a player in a new position. I like the confidence and aggressiveness he shows here though.

For all the improvements he has made though, he did struggle a bit in this game in coverage. Here is a prime example of that. He is in man coverage on the outside against Donte Moncrief at the bottom of the screen. Wilson gets turned around at the snap by Moncrief and is unable to fully recover before falling to the ground. This is a poor rep that fully emphasizes how poor Wilson is in man coverage on the outside. I do think though the Colts have done a great job of working around this as after this game, Wilson played primarily zone on the outside and man against tight ends.

Weeks 11 + 12: Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins

I lumped these two games together because they were easily Wilson’s best performances of the season. He really showed some real development in these two outings and his confidence appears to be at an all time high level. Against the Titans, Wilson allowed two receptions on three targets for 24 yards and an interception. He played in 46 snaps (73% of the defensive snaps) in that game. Against the Dolphins, Wilson was not targeted once in the game. He played 36 snaps (67.9% of the total defensive snaps).

Wilson makes an excellent play on the ball here for his first interception of the season. He is in zone coverage in the underneath flats but reads Marcus Mariota’s eyes to drop back and intercept the ball. This is an outstanding play that shows real development in Wilson’s game. One major issue I had with Wilson early in the year was his “zone eyes.” A corner with good “zone eyes” is a player who trusts his positioning, teammates, and scheme enough to know he’s in the right position on the field to read the quarterback. The big step in confidence to trust all that and read Mariota’s eyes is simply remarkable from Wilson.

Remember that passive corner from the Bengals game who was hesitant to tackle A.J Green? Yeah he’s gone now. Now we have this guy who engages in contact in run support and is looking to make the big tackle in run defense. Here Wilson sheds the block from the receiver and is able to make a big hit on the running back. Again, this has a big thing to do with Wilson’s confidence. He is coming downhill faster because he trusts his teammates behind him.

Again, Wilson shows excellent “zone eyes” on this play. Wilson— lined up at the bottom of the screen— is in mid-zone coverage. He is aware of his surroundings and knows that there is no receiver around him or in his zone. He then proceeds to read Ryan Tannehill’s eyes and fades back into deep coverage to make a play on the ball. The confidence to read the quarterback and make a play like this is something we rarely saw from Wilson early in his career. Wilson is now playing much more aggressive and opportunistic as his confidence grows. This bodes very well for his future role with the team.

Final Thoughts

So what is the overall review of Wilson’s season to this point? Honestly I have no clue yet. Wilson has gone from a player who seemed like a bust who was one mistake away from being cut to being a valuable role player in just a few weeks. His talent has always been there but now that he is playing with a lot of confidence, we are seeing his potential really leak out.

Who is to credit for this sudden change in confidence for Wilson? Well first we have to credit Mike Mitchell as he reportedly “saved Wilson’s season” according to an incredible article by Zak Keefer of Indy Star Sports that I highly recommend. I’d also credit the coaching staff for moving Wilson around and in more favorable positions. He seems more able to succeed now that he is playing from positions of strength.

Overall though, Wilson has played very well the last few weeks. He is playing with sky high confidence and is becoming a pretty solid outside zone corner. Now I’m not saying he’s perfect as he does struggle in man coverage still and I still question him as an athlete but he is developing nicely with the skills he does have. These next few weeks will be vital for him though as he looks to continually build on his strong play of the last few weeks.