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Josh Wilson Fills Up On Confidence

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

This story appeared on page B1 of Friday’s Free Lance-Star

ASHBURN – The slight twinge of pain shooting through Josh Wilson’s hamstring early in the fourth quarter against Dallas on Sunday signaled an ominous end to an otherwise pleasant afternoon.

Wilson

Wilson was having one of his better games of the season for the Washington Redskins when, with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter, he pulled his hamstring. That forced him from the remainder of the Redskins’ 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys.

“It was really frustrating when you’re out there, you’re having a good game and something minor comes up,” Wilson said. “That definitely kind of ran me hot, and going into overtime and watching from the sidelines is not something I want to do.”

The 5-foot-9, 192-pound cornerback, a collegiate standout at Maryland, was later diagnosed with a mild hamstring strain, which should allow him to play for the Redskins on Sunday at Seattle.

That’s important to Wilson, who spent the first three years of his career playing for the Seahawks before he was traded to Baltimore prior to last season.

“I mean, it would have been great to play with one team all your career,” Wilson said. “That’s what we all come into this league and want to do. But situations change. Coaches change. Personnel changes. You know, [when] they want changes, you’ve got to be able to go with the flow. Not being in Seattle is the choice they had for me, and they [traded] me back home and I don’t regret that decision at all.”

The Seahawks chose Wilson in the second round in 2007, and though he played as a reserve in his rookie season, he started 12 games each of his next two years in Seattle. When the Seahawks fired Jim Mora after the 2009 season, they brought in Pete Carroll, who didn’t see Wilson as the best fit for what he wanted to install defensively, and traded him for a selection in April’s draft.

“We liked him,” Carroll said. “He’s a terrific athlete. He’d shown that before we got here and after. We just had an opportunity trying to make headway with the upcoming draft, we had the chance to get a draft pick and just looking to the future – that’s Kam Chancellor on our team right now, you know?

“We were just trying to make moves. It wasn’t anything [else]. He’s just a good, effective player that makes a lot of things happen, and he’s obviously done that since he’s left us.”

After spending the year in Baltimore, Wilson agreed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract with $6 million guaranteed when the owners’ lockout ended in late July. He arrived with the reputation as a playmaker in the defensive backfield, having intercepted nine passes in the previous three years and defending 36 others.

It has taken time for Wilson to hit his stride in Washington, however. He played well at Dallas on Sept. 26, when the Cowboys targeted him instead of fellow cornerback DeAngelo Hall and he broke up four passes. He had six tackles in losses to Philadelphia and Carolina, and despite playing just over three quarters, also had six tackles against the Cowboys on Sunday.

“I’ve felt good about him all year,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “It just takes a guy a while to feel very comfortable, feel real comfortable within the system. But he’s playing well, and as he’s said a few times, he’s feeling real comfortable with the terminology, the system and what he’s supposed to do.”

It was nearly Wilson’s breakout game. He had a shot at two interceptions – the first going off his hands not even eight minutes into the first quarter, when Dallas receiver Laurent Robinson tripped and Wilson was alone in coverage, and the second also intended for Robinson on the first play of the fourth quarter that was but greatly overthrown.

“The first one, if the receiver didn’t stick his hand out, the ball was going to hit me right there in the chest,” Wilson said. “The next one, the really low one Tony threw – I got my hands on it, and I can’t tell you how the ball got out of there. But it’s, again, those are the frustrating pieces. Some reason, when you get on a roll, you get a bunch of ’em. Those just fall to you.”

Interceptions have been a problem for the Redskins’ defense all season. The team has just seven picks, with four by defensive backs – two by Kevin Barnes and one each by Hall and Oshiomogho Atogwe.

“When you get 35 runs a game at you and you get in a lot of short passing game, he’s not really getting anything,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “They’re not throwing the ball up the field at you. Those things will come. We’ve got to get a lead and do a better job that way, and if we can do that, all the turnovers will come.”

Wilson is confident things are headed in the right direction, but he realizes he’s not being asked – and certainly not expected – to do much more than play within the system.

“In my career, I’ve been able to make not just big plays, but huge plays to change my game, and here I feel like I’ve played solid, but I haven’t changed the game yet just by one play,” Wilson said. “It is kind of something I want to show Redskins fans I can do, but again, I’m playing within my box out there. I’m staying in a box.”

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