Back to the Future

Gibril Wilson didn't waste any time getting noticed.During his rookie season, Wilson played in eight of the Giants' first nine games, the last seven of which he started at safety.

During that span, he snared three interceptions, which would eventually tie for the team lead. He also recorded 55 tackles, three sacks, five passes defensed and one forced fumble. And, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October 2004.

Wilson was well on his way to being the first Giants rookie defender named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. It was a dream rookie season, until the dream turned into a nightmare in Arizona.

In a game against the Cardinals in mid-November, he suffered a painful burner that would cause him to leave the contest and miss the final seven games of the season. Meanwhile, with Wilson on the sidelines, the Giants went from 5-4 and in the playoff chase to losing six of their last seven.

It was a frustrating time for Wilson, to say the least.

"That was a long time ago," Wilson smiled. "I'm over that. I just have to try and get better this year."

Why is Wilson so quick to forget the nightmarish finish to a once-promising rookie season? Perhaps it's because he knows that New York is a ‘what-have-you-done-for me-lately' kind of town. Perhaps it's because the Giants should once again be major contenders in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl. Or maybe, just maybe, he's eager to improve the Giants' ranking in pass defense, which was a dismal 27th in the league last year.

"We know that we're a much better defense that that," Wilson said. "This year we want to come out and establish ourselves as one of the better defenses in the league."

If training camp and the preseason were any indication, Wilson said the Giants DBs would be just fine.

"I definitely think we're much, much better than we were last year," he said. "We have a lot of playmakers and guys that understand and are in the right places."

That starts with Wilson, the only returning starter from last year's secondary.

"(I'm looking) for him to have an outstanding year," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "To take full advantage of the experience that he's had – playing as a rookie, playing as a second-year player. And, to lend some experience and stability to the secondary (this season)."

Wilson liked what he saw from his revamped secondary this summer, and believes that they'll be as good as expected as quickly as expected.

"It went well," he said. "Other guys have adjusted well. I have a good feel for the other guys, their body language and how they react to stuff. I think it went very well for all of us. Everything worked out well."

Last year, Wilson had a nice sophomore season, coming back from the painful burner. He started all 16 games and the playoff game against the Panthers at strong safety and led the team with 110 tackles, 88 of which were solo. In addition, he notched two interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles. So, with him being a good player last season and the only returning starter, Wilson is well aware that Coughlin is expecting big things from him in ‘06.

"The coaching staff – they have a lot of faith in me," Wilson said. "And, I know I have to make plays. I'm very hard on myself.

"I have to make game-ending plays."

Wilson did make a few impact plays last year, including intercepting Kurt Warner in the third quarter of the season-opener en route to a victory. Still, Wilson holds himself to a much higher standard.

"I'm looking to just be the best I can be," Wilson stated. "I'm very hard on myself. I'm looking to just help the team and make big plays."

With the offseason additions of linebacker LaVar Arrington, cornerbacks Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters and the return of linebacker Antonio Pierce, not to mention the drafting of Boston College pass-rusher Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants have a chance to be a very good defense. Perhaps even a special defense.

"That's the goal," Wilson claimed. "We've got a lot of talent, and now we've got LaVar, Sam, R.W. We're going to be one of the best defenses in the league."

If the Giants mount a defense to match their high-scoring offense, chances are they can go far into the playoffs this year. And that sits just fine with Wilson, who is still disappointed in the way the Giants were knocked out last season.

"Because that was our first-ever chance at the playoffs," he recalled. "We got knocked out early. So, we're working hard to get better this year, and to get back to that point and move on."

Either way, the current position Wilson's in is much better than where he was a year and a half ago; sitting out the rest of the season with a painful injury as his team dropped from playoff contention. But, don't even suggest this is a sore subject for the Giants' talented safety.

"That's forgotten," Wilson said. "That's a long time ago. That really doesn't matter now."

The only thing that matters to Wilson is that he and the Giants get back to the future.

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