Veteran Adrian Wilson has hit Foxboro ready to work
|06.12.13 at 4:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots secondary averages 25 years of age, so when someone like the 33-year-old Adrian Wilson walks into the room, the other players tend to take notice.
The former Cardinals defensive back, who spent 12 seasons in the desert before signing with New England this offseason, has brought an impressive resume to Foxboro. But to this point, the thing that’s impressed most of the Patriots defensive backs are his leadership skills.
“Adrian has done a good job. He’s worked hard [and is] very professional,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “He has a real good attitude [and] has a lot of experience. We’ll see how the rest of it plays out.
“But, I would imagine probably what they were referring to is just the way he carries himself, the way he goes about his job. Works hard, smart guy, he’s experienced. He’s really tried to learn and buy into our program and do everything he can to find a way to contribute. I think he’s very well respected.”
Wilson made his mark on the young defensive backs fairly early in the offseason, when his oversized presence helped earn the nickname “The Incredible Hulk.” But now that he’s had a chance to get out on the field, not much has changed. In the sessions that have been open to the media, while Wilson has been deferential to the coaching staff, he’s also clearly led and worked with the younger players through positional drills, as well as 7-on-7’s and 11-on-11’s.
“I think on the field, the communication is a lot better than it is in the classroom, because you can’t call the calls out in the classroom like you can on the field,” he said. “The field work is a lot different than the class work.
“The classroom stuff is the classroom stuff. But to actually get out on the field and actually run it against live competition, it’s something different.”
Following Wednesday’s minicamp session, Wilson said the transition hasn’t been a big deal.
“It’s been good. Everybody has been out here learning, just trying to get the playbook down. Working hard through OTAs and minicamps. I think everybody is just trying to get a feel for one another,” he said. “Football is football, everywhere. I don’t really have any big transitions as far as coming from West to East. It’s just about coming out here and trying to work hard.”
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder — who looks more like a linebacker than a safety — has always been known for his physical presence as an in-the-box, strong safety. But over the first two days of New England’s mandatory minicamp, he’s shown an ability to make some nice plays on the ball. On Wednesday, he came up with a nice pass breakup on a Tom Brady pass for wide receiver Michael Jenkins. That came on the heels of a couple of nice plays in coverage on Tuesday.
In fact, Wilson’s work in the passing game could help the Patriots fill an important void — the New England linebackers struggled at times in pass coverage in 2012 (just flip on a tape of the AFC title game and you’ll see), and even though Wilson isn’t necessarily a linebacker, he’s certainly got the build and speed when it comes to running down tight ends and running backs.
Regardless of where he ends up, Wilson said the ease that he’s had transitioning to the New England system has been made easier by the fact that there’s a good group of defensive backs around him.
“I think it’s a good mix. Guys play hard,” he said. “[These] guys have been in the system so they’re making it a lot easier on me. Those guys have already been in the system, they know the system, and just being in the classroom with those guys, being able to sit beside Steve [Gregory], sit beside Devin [McCourty], those guys … they know the playbook.”
He’s been particularly impressed with the versatility and skill set of McCourty, who figures to spend a lot of time alongside Wilson this season.
“He’s a good player,” Wilson said. “He does a lot of different things — he plays a lot of different positions. He’s really smart. He’s been in the system for a while, and so to be able to lean on him, that’s definitely a blessing.”