WESTFIELD, Ind. – There are a couple of undeniables when considering the on-going training camp competition at cornerback.
Pierre Desir. And Kenny Moore II.
The Indianapolis Colts made their sentiments for each known during the offeason. They re-signed Desir to a three-year, $25 million contract, then gave Moore, who was under contract through 2019, a four-year extension worth more than $30 million.
Money – a hefty investment – speaks volumes.
But after those two, everything appears wide open and ultra-competitive. And that’s what the next few weeks at Grand Park Sports Campus is all about.
“We’re just trying to find out, like I said in the spring, who that ‘1’ guy is, who the ‘2’ guy is and who is going to play on nickel for us,’’ coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “That will reveal itself.
“Let the players do that with their competition and their execution.’’
Often, the starter in the base opposite Desir has been Moore, who took his game to another level last season, especially in the postseason. At times it’s been Quincy Wilson or Jalen Collins. Rookie Rock Ya-Sin has gotten good exposure.
When Eberflus dials up his nickel package, Desir and Wilson might be on the outside with Moore sliding into the slot where, again, he has established himself as one of the NFL’s best.
However it plays out, opportunity knocks for someone.
Someone like Wilson, a 2017 second-round draft pick who has fought inconsistency his first two seasons.
“Man, I feel like the only way’s up,’’ he said. “I finally feel like everything’s lined up for me. I know what to expect. I know what the coaches expect of me. I know the defense. I’m confident and the coaches are confident in me.
“It’s all in my hands just to make it happen.’’
In an attempt at maximizing the opportunity, Wilson decided to remake himself from a physical standpoint.
When he came in as a rookie, he was 213 pounds with 16% body fat. In year two, he was roughly 210 pounds with 10% body fat.
“Now,’’ he said with a smile, “I’m about 7-8 percent and about 192, 193 pounds.’’
It’s been awhile since he’s been so, well, svelte.
“Last time I was 192, 193 I was probably in the 11th grade, 12th grade. I promise you, high school,’’ Wilson said. “I really feel good. I feel like I can run all day.’’
Eberflus has noticed.
“He’s changed his body considerably in terms of his lean mass and his body fat, and he’s looking the best he’s looked,’’ he said. “He’s done a nice job so far this spring and he’s competing his tail off this fall.’’
Wilson’s physical makeover actually began late last season.
“It’s been a slow progression,’’ Eberflus said. “I think it’s something that he and Rusty (Jones, director of sports performance) and the strength staff and the training camp got together and said, ‘Hey, these are the numbers. Let’s look at it.’ He’s done a great job of changing his body and now you’re starting to see it on the field in terms of his quickness and in terms of his coverage ability.’’
The previous coaching staff believed Wilson’s early inconsistency was tied to his immaturity. When the Colts selected him with the 46th overall pick in 2017, the Florida product was 21. He’s still a relative pup at 22; he turns 23 Aug. 16.
“I’m younger than most of the rookies,’’ Wilson said, laughing.
He’s right. Ya-Sin, Khari Willis, Ben Banogu, Bobby Okereke, Jackson Barton and Gerri Green are 23. E.J. Speed is 24.
That he entered the NFL at such a young age contributed to Wilson’s early struggles. In short, he wasn’t prepared for what was to come.
“I really just had a lot to learn, then with the coaching staff and the change and going from man to zone,’’ he said of having to transition from the aggressive man-to-man approach of head coach Chuck Pagano and coordinator Ted Monachino to Eberflus’ zone-heavy scheme. “It was just a lot.
“Then I wasn’t in shape. I had to get my body in shape.’’
Was that a byproduct of immaturity?
“I wouldn’t say it was immaturity,’’ Wilson said. “There were just a lot of things I didn’t know. I didn’t know how important my diet was. In college, you just eat whatever and you’re just better than everyone. That worked, so you think you can keep doing that.
“But I learned it’s important having the right people in your ear, just coaching you up day to day to day.’’
Aiding Wilson’s development last season was having veteran safety Mike Mitchell “in his ear.’’ The team signed Mitchell to bolster an injury-depleted position in mid-October, and his influence included tutoring Wilson.
“Mike had a big influence on Quincy . . . ‘Just don’t worry about the noise. Just control what I can control,’’’ general manager Chris Ballard said.
Too often, Wilson would pay attention to criticism on social media.
“We drafted him when he was 20 (a young 21, actually),’’ Ballard said. “Five-star player. Big-time recruit. Had success. They read social media. Second-round pick, expectations are high and it doesn’t go the way he wanted it to go.
“Now you’re reading everything on social media, everybody’s killing you, why aren’t you starting, why aren’t you leading the league in picks, you should be first-team All-Pro.
“Mitchell helped quiet his mind down.’’
As last season unfolded, Wilson settled down and settled in. He started four of the final seven regular-season games and saw extensive action in the two playoff games.
“You guys are going to see it,’’ Ballard said of Wilson’s gradual transformation.
“You finally just get it,’’ he said. “Things are finally clicking for me right now and I’m ready to put on a show.’’
It’s clear the Colts anticipate big things from Wilson in year three.
“I expect big things, too,’’ he said. “I’m still young. It’s my third year. I’m expecting more of myself this year and I know I can do it.’’
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