There’s not much other way to say it, Titans first-round pick Isaiah Wilson’s rookie season has been a complete bust thus far.
As the Titans reach the midway point of their regular season Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Wilson still has yet to play his first NFL down. But the Titans front office, coaching staff and teammates have not given up on the former Georgia Bulldog tackle.
Wilson made a nice splash on draft day showing a jovial personality after the Titans drafted him 29th overall and expected him to compete for the right tackle spot.
Since then, however, nearly everything regarding Wilson has been a struggle. He has twice found off-field troubles with a DUI and an incident on the Tennessee State campus. Wilson had two different stints on the Covid reserve list, including one stay of more than a month. He has had issues with conditioning and reportedly has been late to meetings as well.
It is only in the past two weeks that Wilson has finally been getting in full weeks of practice. It’s not like the Titans couldn’t use him, at least as a backup in the aftermath of Taylor Lewan’s knee injury. But it appears that Wilson has a ways to go before he might finally make a contribution.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who made the call to select Wilson, admits he is disappointed in the rookie, but is hopeful that his situation is improving.
“We’ll keep working with him, certainly disappointed in the off the field issues. He and I’ve talked about that, and that’s not something that we really tolerate here,” Robinson said. “But him coming off of the COVID (list), this will really be his essentially third, or two-and-a-half, third week of practice because of the residual effects he had from the coronavirus there that he had, but I would say the last week was better than the week before. I’m excited to see what he’s got going on this week.”
Teammates have worked to take Wilson under their wing and help him make better decisions. Veteran guard Rodger Saffold said there is a fine line, however, between encouragement and overloading a young player.
“Basically, whenever you get a chance to talk to somebody, we try to do that. I definitely don’t to feed information in and constantly be on him. I’ve been in situations when you try to do that too much, and you almost mess with the player. But he’s been receptive. It seems like he’s been listening, the way he’s been practicing, he’s definitely been putting a lot more effort into it. Just the way he’s been coming off the ball, I like. But the little things here and there, this game is not just on the field, it’s also life,” Saffold said.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith made it sound as if the Titans are taking baby steps to try and get Wilson up to speed. And that begins with consistency on the practice field.
“I think the biggest thing is just being out there practicing. That’s really the first step to building up and getting out there and working his craft,” Smith said. “All these guys get evaluated daily and weekly, and it can certainly change week to week, but the biggest part is actually just being out there and practicing.”
Saffold echoed that as well, saying that Wilson has to show the right aptitude and desire to refine his craft and himself as a player.
“Little tidbits that I can give to him to try to help him out as best I can, I try to do. But, you know, it’s all dependent on him and what he wants to do, and how he’s going to approach every day, and how he’s gonna approach practice,” Saffold pointed out. “I think the trend is going up. Of course, there’s little problems here and there that he has to figure out on his own.”