Secret Superstar: Josh Wilson, Baltimore Ravens

| April 15, 2011

Going into the 2010 season, the thing holding the Ravens back from being an elite team, according to most experts, was their defensive backfield. Dominique Foxworth was out for the year with a training camp injury, not everyone was sold on the pair of Chris Carr and Fabian Washington, and Lardarius Webb was returning from an ACL injury, fueling doubts of his reliability.

To add depth and some security to the secondary, the Ravens traded for Josh Wilson late in training camp. The Seahawks were apparently sold on Jordan Babineaux, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings, which to them meant 2007’s second round pick was expendable. We had Wilson rated better than all three players in 2009, making us think we had witnessed a pilfering.

While Chris Carr played at a high level, Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb struggled. As the season went on, Webb showed some improvement, but after allowing eight catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns against Buffalo, Fabian Washington’s time as a starter was over.

His replacement? The Ravens’ Secret Superstar, Josh Wilson.
 

Going Home

In his time with Seattle, Wilson saw his numbers improve to the point that he gave up just a 73.1 QB rating when targeted in 2009. He started 11 games that year, but his role wasn’t clear with too many corners on the roster heading into 2010 and Leon Washington in town to take over kick return duties. So, the move to Baltimore both relieved Seattle of a logjam and returned Wilson, the former Maryland Terp, to his home state and re-united him with Foxworth, his college team mate.
 
Wilson wasn’t immediately inserted into the line-up in Baltimore, but in Weeks 5, 7 and 9, he saw extended time off the bench and excelled with pass coverage ratings above +1.0 in each game. He was thrown at 14 times in those contests and managed to deflect more passes (six) than he allowed to be caught (five.) He also added an interception to sweeten his stats a little more.
 
While covering Brandon Lloyd, Wilson allowed just one catch in three targets. He limited Lee Evans to 31 yards on three throws compared to Fabian Washington who allowed 74 yards on four, and he didn’t allow Brandon Marshall or Davone Bess to make a catch while he was covering them.
 

Rough Start as a Starter

His first start came in Week 10 against the Falcons and Wilson quickly found out that stopping Roddy White really is not an easy task – he allowed 73 yards and a touchdown to Atlanta’s star. In his next game, Wilson was beaten for an 88 yard touchdown catch by David Gettis, the play that we had rated as the worst of the season for Wilson.
 
After a quiet game against Tampa Bay where he was only thrown at twice, the Ravens’ next two opponents went after Wilson, targeting him a combined 18 times. The Steelers found a bit of success, connecting on six passes his way for 84 yards … his two missed tackles on the day looked bad too, but he was able to pull down an interception for a bit of redemption.
 
Matt Schaub tried to take advantage of him too, but Wilson used the game to show the league that his is a name that should be known. While he allowed four balls to be caught, he deflected two passes, and saw three more fall incomplete. Considering that he was covering Andre Johnson on half the passes, it wasn’t a bad game at all. To push that Monday Night game from good to memorable, he won it with a touchdown return of an overtime interception.
 

Amazing Ending

It looked like the rest of the league took notice after his performance against Houston, as the number of balls thrown his way decreased significantly. In the last three games of the regular season and the wild card game against the Chiefs, he was thrown at just ten times, allowing four catches for 34 yards, and a pass deflection.
 
In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Steelers tested him again, but were much less successful. He allowed only 27 yards and had another deflection.
 
His season totals point to Wilson being one of the better cornerbacks in the league. He was one of only eight cornerbs with 400 or more snaps to have allowed less than 50% of passes his direction to be completed. Only one player bettered his 10 defensed passes and also allowed fewer receptions: Darrelle Revis.
 

Looking ahead

Considering the Seahawks only got a 2011 fifth rounder for Wilson, the thought that the Ravens got a steal seems accurate. Wilson is scheduled to be a free agent, is only 25 years old, and on the back of his play in 2010, should be in for a big pay day. He has shown interest in returning to Baltimore and the Ravens would be smart to lock him up as soon as they can.
 
The rest of the Ravens’ secondary might not be so lucky. Chris Carr will be an unrestricted free agent, is a little older, and is likely thought of as notches below Wilson at this point, so he might not be as big of a priority. It’s unclear if Ed Reed will stay, and if he does, for how long. Dawan Landry is in need of a new contract as well. The Ravens seem to have a lot of the pieces of the puzzle in place to make another run at the Super Bowl, but again they need to make sure their secondary is in order.
 
The first step is securing their Secret Superstar, Josh Wilson.
 
 

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