Colts’ Quincy Wilson eager to put uneven rookie season behind him

Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs past Quincy Wilson #31 of the Indianapolis Colts during the second half of a game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s difficult to determine which was worse: the first impression, or the second one.

Either way, Quincy Wilson is embracing the opportunity to make yet another impression – a much better one, of course – as the Indianapolis Colts move forward with a new head coach, new defensive coordinator, new position coach and new scheme.

The 2017 second-round draft pick recently was asked if he was looking forward to a fresh start in the aftermath of what was, at best, a lackluster rookie season.

“I definitely look forward to that,’’ Wilson said. “I just can’t wait to show what I got.

“I’m just more fired up to play in this kind of scheme because I know what I bring to the table.’’

Act I wasn’t exactly a lost season for Wilson – he appeared in seven games with five starts – but neither was it a smooth transition following a 39-game career at Florida.

The first impression? Wilson was taken with the 46th overall pick in the April draft, then showed up for work with the Colts a few weeks later in less than ideal condition. He attributed that to, in part, an offseason regimen that included bouncing from city to city for pre-draft visits.

“It was hard to get a workout in,’’ Wilson said.

That was apparent from the outset.

This from coach Chuck Pagano as the Colts’ offseason was unfolding in late-May: “I don’t think (Wilson is) anywhere near in the physical shape that he needs to be in. He understands that. He knows that.’’

Yes, Wilson did.

“I was not (in shape),’’ he admitted earlier this week. “When I first got here, I was not.’’

Wilson fought through that, got his legs under him and started against the Arizona Cardinals in week 2. It was a solid starting debut: two solo tackles and a pair of passes defensed. One of the latter was highlight material when he made a diving deflection on Carson Palmer’s deep post to Jaron Brown.

However, during the game Wilson sustained a knee injury that would interrupt his development. Further complicating things was the difficulty he encountered to return to the cornerback mix once he regained his health.

Wilson endured a nine-game stretch where he either was inactive (eight times) or active but didn’t step on the field. Too often, he was a healthy scratch.

“It was definitely frustrating,’’ he said.

That frustration was felt by the coaching staff.

Pagano in late-November: “I’m not going to make any excuses for him . . . he got nicked up; he’s never really been himself since then. He’s young. He’s 20 years old. He doesn’t even shave, yet. He’ll get another opportunity.’’

And this from then-defensive coordinator Ted Monachino: “When Quincy practices and plays better than the other guys, he’ll be up and he’ll be playing. He’s got to practice and prepare well.’’

Those might be the most damning comments a position coach/coordinator can make regarding one of their players.

General manager Chris Ballard declined to elaborate on what contributed to Wilson’s erratic season, other than the early knee injury.

“I think there’s always more to the story,’’ he said. “Did he have a great rookie year? No, he didn’t. He played well at the end.’’

Wilson, to his credit, shouldered much of the blame for too often being a non-factor as a rookie, especially when injuries decimated the cornerback room and forced management to sign prospects off the street.

“There are some things I could have controlled. There’s no secret about that,’’ he said. “I wasn’t mentally strong. I could have folded and just said forget it, but I didn’t.’’

Wilson came off the bench at Jacksonville in week 13, then started the final four games at left corner. His last impression was his strongest: two tackles, including one for a loss, and his first career interceptions in the Colts’ 22-13 win over the Houston Texans.

“When I got my time to play at the end of the year, I showed what I had. I’m just ready to build on that,’’ Wilson said.

That’s why the most recent first impression is so critical.

Ballard’s first draft with the Colts addressed deficiencies in the secondary: Wilson; safety Malik Hooker, the 15th overall selection; and nickel corner Nate Hairston, a fifth-round pick.

Gone are the primary starting corners from a year ago – Vontae Davis and Rashaan Melvin – and veteran safety Darius Butler. That leaves a core of young players with intriguing upside, including safeties Clayton Geathers, Matthias Farley and T.J. Green, and corners Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore II and Chris Milton.

So much, though, hinges on how much Wilson learned from his rookie travails.

“I feel like I’m a better player this year with the lessons I learned, getting my body in NFL shape and everything like that,’’ he said.

Taking a one-day-at-a-time approach isn’t a good idea, it’s vital.

“You’ve got to treat every practice like a game,’’ Wilson said. “You can’t just go out there and feel like can just be whatever today. Every day you’ve got to prove it. That’s what I’m going to do this year.

“There was a lot going on last year; I’m sure you guys know that. But clean slate, new coaches, new everything. That’s me.’’

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