Jets rookie Wilson ready to return

Kyle Wilson was angry at himself, frustrated about losing

playing time and the confidence of his coaches.

Expected to play a major role in the New York Jets’ secondary,

the first-round draft pick went from heralded rookie to forgotten

man in just a few weeks.

”I’ve been playing a long time, so it was definitely new to

me,” Wilson said Friday. ”I just had to learn quickly and just

had to do my best with it.”

Playing with confidence again, the talented cornerback is back

in the mix and expected to replace – or at least rotate with – Drew

Coleman in the nickel and dime spots Sunday at Cleveland.

”He’s back to being the guy that we drafted,” coach Rex Ryan

said.

That was the guy whom the Jets couldn’t believe slipped to them

at the 29th overall spot. Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike

Pettine envisioned rotating the athletic and physical defensive

back from Boise State with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in

the secondary every week.

Wilson got plenty of work with the first-team defense in

training camp while Revis sat out in a contract dispute. Ryan raved

about Wilson all summer – and then, the regular season began.

Wilson often appeared overmatched and Ryan thought he lost

confidence.

”I just think sometimes as a rookie, you give up completions in

this league,” Ryan said. ”Everybody does. I just felt like he was

at a stage where he expected a guy to complete a ball on him, and

it’s like, ‘Come on, kid.”’

The Jets opened the first two games of the season with three

defensive backs, including Wilson. After Revis was injured in Week

2 against New England, Wilson started at cornerback against Miami

the following week.

”Given how good our other corners are, whoever goes in at that

position is going to be an instant target,” Pettine said. ”That’s

a tough thing for a rookie.”

Wilson was picked on regularly and a few weeks later was no

longer in the rotation on defense – relegated to punt returns and

special teams duty while he got his head straightened out.

”His frustration was obvious,” Pettine said. ”I mean, he’s a

competitor. He’s a very high-character kid and you could tell that

it bothered him.”

Wilson kept quiet, never complaining about his struggles to the

media, even as Coleman got the playing time he was used to

getting.

”I tried to look at it positively,” Wilson said. ”I know it

could obviously be taken the wrong way, which wouldn’t be

beneficial to me as a player.”

So, he did extra work after practice with defensive backs coach

Dennis Thurman, watched more film and bounced things off both Revis

and Cromartie in an effort to improve.

”If you’re not having fun, you get frustrated and you don’t

play to the high level that you want to play at,” Cromartie said.

”That’s one of the things we’ve talked to him about.”

While Revis had quick success as a rookie with the Jets in 2007,

Cromartie could relate to Wilson. He was a first-round pick of San

Diego in 2006 and had plenty of expectations, but was pulled from

the cornerback rotation and played only in nickel situations before

returning to the rotation before the playoffs.

”You’re going to have bumps in the road as a rookie and I think

there are a lot of guys like that,” Cromartie said. ”You have a

lot of pressure on you and coming in, you’re trying to be that guy.

It’s just the way you handle the bumps. I think he has handled them

well.”

Wilson has put together a few solid weeks of practice, and tries

not to get discouraged when he’s beaten by Braylon Edwards,

Santonio Holmes or Jerricho Cotchery during the week.

”It doesn’t do a lot to help your confidence covering those

guys,” Pettine said. ”We don’t want to throw him out there 100

percent of the time and say, ‘Hey, listen go out there and gain

experience,’ when, as we all know, we’re in the win business. So,

we kind of have to walk that fine line between getting him playing

time and getting him used to the speed of the game and playing at a

high level.”

Wilson says his confidence is the same as it has always been,

but he’s calmer now.

”Everybody just said it speaks to how you can battle through

adversity and stuff like that, and seeing how you’re going to

respond,” Wilson said. ”I definitely took it as a challenge and

came to work everyday and I’m just trying to get better.”

NOTES: In a week of playful jabs between Ryan, his twin brother,

Rob, and Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, the Jets coach had one final

shot. After Mangini said Thursday that everyone was happy for

Ryan’s recent weight loss, ”except maybe Macy’s losing one of

their floats,” Rex Ryan served up a line from the movie

”Stripes.” ”It wobbled me. There’s no question about it, he

staggered me,” Ryan said, ”but I’ve got one message to say to

Eric Mangini: ‘You just made the list, buddy.”’