He looks like a starter on the field, talks like a New York Jet off of it, and now cornerback Kyle Wilson will provide another staunch piece to head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defense.
Wilson, the first-round rookie from Boise State, will move from the right cornerback position to nickelback now that All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis is back in the fold. Wilson is excited about the opportunity to be a part of the best secondary in the NFL.
"That's what we're trying to be," Wilson said. "If you're not trying to be that, then why are you playing the game?"
Wilson started the first three games of the Jets' preseason, racking up six tackles and a half-sack. The 5'10", 194-pound Piscataway, N.J., native was slotted as a starter opposite newcomer Antonio Cromartie as the Jets had to prepare to start the season without Revis. Now that the secondary is restored to full strength, Wilson can use what he acquired this offseason to propel his play in the role envisioned for him originally.
"The experience that Kyle gained this preseason is going to be huge," safety Jim Leonhard said. "Just the reps that he got, he should feel comfortable moving back into the role that he was initially just going to be asked to do playing nickel. It's going to be big for him. He was going to be getting those reps anyway. He's been our nickel from day one that he stepped in here and he's comfortable in it."
In addition to playing nickelback, Wilson is now assuming the punt returning role. At Boise State he returned three punts for touchdowns in his junior year alone, including a 90-yarder. With the familiarity he has there he is a perfect fit for the job. The Jets have sure-handed options in Leonhard, who has taught Wilson a lot about the type of punters he'll face in the NFL, and Jerricho Cotchery, but Wilson already has a knack for the job.
"Kyle is really good about setting up his run," kickoff returner Brad Smith said. "Punt returning, you have to have done it before. It takes a little time to get used to it and get used to reading the block and setting it up. That's one of the things he does very well. He has great hands and knows how to set his blocks up."
Rookie running back Joe MfcKnight showed flashes in the punt return game when he ripped off a 67-yard return at Carolina in the preseason. Leonhard is consistent and someone the Jets could use in severe weather conditions. Wilson, though, provides a great combination of speed, run skills and catching ability.
While Revis was gone, Wilson was a starter and thus kept away from punt return duty, but he's now eager to capitalize on what he's been practicing all offseason.
"I've always been sort of in the mix and I'm just preparing," Wilson said. "Hopefully I'm back there and in some way can earn my way back there. I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity to get my hands on the ball more often."
It's on defense where Wilson has impressed the most, however. In the preseason games, wide receivers who caught passes in front of Wilson were typically stopped immediately after the catch. In practice he's made a few interceptions and defended many passes. At Boise State he had 159 tackles, a forced fumble, two sacks and 11 interceptions during his career. That type of production has been continued this summer with the Jets.
"The young guy was doing really well," safety Brodney Pool said. "Especially to be young and come in and learn this system and go out there and perform, I think he had a great preseason and a better preseason than any other rookie I've been around. Him moving to nickel, he was already there playing it so it won't be that big of a difference."
Wilson was able to travel to Landover, Md., on Monday to see Boise State take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. It was a thrilling game that featured an early 17-0 Boise lead and a furious Tech comeback and was capped by a late touchdown drive by the Broncos to get a 33-30 win. Wilson felt lucky to witness his alma mater, ranked third in the nation, take down the No. 10 Hokies.
"It was a big win for them," Wilson said. "It was a great game. Early on I thought it was going to get out of hand, which was a good thing for Boise. Virginia Tech came back but obviously the better team won. It was pretty sweet. There were a lot of people and a great crowd."
While he's able to look back at his former teammates whom he helped guide, Wilson is now able to look up to Revis and Cromartie. With all three players on the field today for practice, the Jets secondary looked formidable to say the least. Wilson described the advice Revis has imparted upon him throughout this offseason — something he surely has taken to heart.
"When you get tired or things break down, always rely on technique," Wilson said. "Obviously when you get tired you need to focus more. You have to go out and practice each day and work on it, and it translates to the game."