By Tarik El-Bashir
When Josh Wilson signed with the Redskins late last July, the cornerback had roughly two weeks to familiarize himself with team’s defensive scheme before the preseason opener.
Wilson eventually got up to speed, but it took weeks, if not months, before he was completely comfortable starting on the right side opposite DeAngelo Hall.
Familiarity, though, won’t be an issue in 2012 – and that’s the primary reason the DeMatha and University of Maryland product expects to have a breakout season.
“It’s going to be night and day,” Wilson said Thursday. “Being able have an offseason, a year under my belt in this scheme, I’m going to be able to have an understanding, make calls for myself. …I had to learn on the fly last season, so it was definitely tough.”
In 16 games, Wilson recorded 62 tackles (48 solo), two interceptions and defended 15 passes. Both of the 27-year-old’s interceptions came in December as he spent less time focused on his responsibilities within defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s scheme and more time reading the opposing offense.
“I won’t be reacting and figuring out what I have to do first and then figuring out how the offense is trying to attack me,” Wilson said. “Now, I come out of the huddle knowing where the weaknesses are, where my strength is, where my help is, and what I need to protect myself. By the time the offense gets to the line, I’m already trying to figure out what they’re trying to do.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said he’s noticed Wilson’s growing confidence.
“It doesn’t matter what type of formation,” Shanahan said. “You don’t have to think. You can just react, and he has been able to do that.”
Wilson expects big things from himself. But he also knows that his success is inextricably linked to the play outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan and, more specifically, their ability to harass opposing quarterbacks.
“It’s everything,” Wilson said. “When you have a good pass rush that’s coming every down, with Rak and and Ryan coming off that edge, I know that quarterback has to get the ball out of his hand. He can’t double-pump it [or] give me a triple move. If he does that, it’s a sack.”
“That’s very comforting for a defensive back,” he added. “Because if I can hold my guy for five or six seconds, it’s over, that play is dead.”
Away from the field, Wilson’s comfort level has also increased. Not only is he near his old stomping grounds, he’s playing in the same city in consecutive years for the first time since suiting up for the Seahawks from 2007 - 2009. He played one season for the Ravens before joining the Redskins, the team he grew up cheering in the suburbs of Washington.
“It’s definitely a little more comfortable,” Wilson said before making a good-natured crack about the expense of purchasing tickets for games at FedEx Field. “But it costs a lot on game day.”
Seriously, though, Wilson called it a “blessing” to be surrounded by friends and family on a daily basis. But, he quickly added, it’s almost as comforting to look at a familiar playbook each day.
“It says the same thing it said last year,” he said with a grin.