Giants rookies display big potential

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On his first professional carry, David Wilson was smacked by two Jaguars for no gain.

But the elusive running back showed on the very next carry why the New York Giants chose him with their first-round pick.

Wilson shot up the middle, shifted and cut his way toward a 26-yard gain. Later, he added a 17-yard run and a 10-yard catch-and-run on which he delivered two blows to Jacksonville defenders.

While coach Tom Coughlin was as hot as the stifling muggy weather in Jacksonville after his team blew a 24-7 lead and lost 32-31 to the Jaguars on Friday night, the Giants' preseason opener showed they might have added some young playmakers to a veteran championship core.

Yes, the Giants have some work to do -- namely protecting the ball on punt returns after muffing two punts inside their own 10-yard line that led to 14 Jacksonville points.

But the Giants' first three selections in the 2012 draft -- Wilson, wide receiver Rueben Randle and cornerback Jayron Hosley -- flashed the kind of playmaking ability that could make a difference in the Giants' quest to repeat as Super Bowl champs.

Wilson was as quick as advertised, and there was a feeling that he could bust a big play on any touch, even if he was playing against Jacksonville's third team. He still has to improve his blocking, and he made a rookie mistake on the final drive of the game when he thought he was supposed to block on a pass when the play was actually called for a draw to him. That busted play resulted in Ryan Perrilloux scrambling for a 2-yard gain and the Giants losing 22 seconds on the clock while down one point with the ball at their own 20 and 1:33 left. The drive ultimately ended at midfield.

And on four of his seven carries, Wilson gained no yards or lost yards behind the Giants' third-string offensive line. But on the other three carries, he gained 26, 17 and 6 yards. And he looked like he was capable of breaking an even bigger run on each of those carries.

"Coach said I showed that I was physical and wasn't a timid back or just a speed back as some people may have had a perception of," Wilson said. "Just showed that I can make positive plays."

While Wilson still has plenty to improve on and has to earn the trust of the coaching staff, the young running back clearly proved that the Giants will have to find ways to get him on the field. And not just on offense.

The Giants might have found a new kick returner as well. On his second pro kickoff return, Wilson ran up the left side, then dashed across the field before finding an alley up the right side for a 48-yard gain. Last year, the Giants' longest kickoff return was for 40 yards by Devin Thomas.

Wilson's Virginia Tech teammate, Hosley, also flashed potential in his first pro outing. The cornerback collected a sack, and on one punt return he turned nothing into a 20-yard gain by dancing all over the field before finding a hole up the left-hand side. (The Giants were penalized, though, for holding on the return.)

Hosley also gained 14 yards on another punt return, which is something, considering the Giants' longest punt return last year was for 18 yards. But just when the Giants might've been feeling like they had finally found a punt returner, Hosley muffed a punt off his right shoulder pad, allowing the Jaguars to recover at the Giants' 2-yard line. Jacksonville would score a touchdown just before the end of the half to get within 24-14.

It was the kind of mistake that Coughlin will not tolerate. And the Giants made the same mistake twice when Jerrel Jernigan replaced Hosley and muffed another punt in the fourth quarter, which led to Jacksonville gaining the ball at the Giants' 9-yard line and scoring three more points.

"Sloppy," Coughlin said. "We have a number of people that really quite frankly don't know what they are doing. Even though they may have some talent and ability, they got to spend a little more time trying to figure out what we are asking them to do. Not just [on punt returns], lots of spots."

Randle, though, looked like he can do more when given opportunities. The wide receiver's pro debut wasn't too shabby. His first catch was for 21 yards, and his second was a 6-yard touchdown on which he sealed off a smaller cornerback.

Randle had an impressive debut but admitted he was quite nervous.

"The butterflies were gone after that," Randle said of his touchdown. "I was more comfortable. Getting my first one out of the way, now I can play much faster."

Randle, Wilson and Hosley will only get better and faster. And even though there were some killer mistakes, the Giants' first three draft picks showed glimpses of what they are capable of.

If they can keep learning and limit their mistakes, the Giants might have three rookies who will contribute big plays this season.

"It was a weird feeling to go out there and [see] my speed translate to the next level," Wilson said of his 48-yard kickoff return. "It felt like college again a little bit. I had a lot of fun out there today."