Vikings LB Eric Wilson hopes he did enough in three-game stint as starter
EAGAN, Minn. -- With word that Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr plans to return from his lingering hamstring injury to play Sunday, Nov. 25, against the Green Bay Packers, Eric Wilson likely will slide back into a reserve role on the Vikings' def...
EAGAN, Minn. -- With word that Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr plans to return from his lingering hamstring injury to play Sunday, Nov. 25, against the Green Bay Packers, Eric Wilson likely will slide back into a reserve role on the Vikings’ defense.
That leaves Wilson, a second-year linebacker, hoping he made enough of an impact in his three-game stint as a fill-in starter to garner some attention down the road. After all, Barr is an unrestricted free agent after this season and there’s no guarantee the team is going to shell out the kind of money he’ll want to bring him back.
In the three games without Barr in the lineup, Wilson was on the field for 75 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps, 146 plays in all. He had mixed results, making 14 tackles but also giving up 10 receptions in coverage.
He was good and bad in last Sunday’s 25-20 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. He recorded the Vikings’ only sack of the game - and the only two recorded hits on Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. But he struggled to contain running back Tarik Cohen in pass coverage. And he was called for what he called a “petty” unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he threw a towel back at wide receiver Taylor Gabriel after the whistle.
“I thought I played like (expletive),” Wilson lamented. “I need to be better.”
Some of the blame can be placed on the fact that Wilson didn’t find out he would be starting until minutes before kickoff. But he wasn’t interested in making any excuses for himself.
“I was ready for it,” Wilson said. “Like I said, I just made too many mistakes. I have to be better.”
It’s been a slow build to this point for Wilson after going undrafted in 2017 out of the University of Cincinnati. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and played exclusively on special teams last season as a rookie.
Now the Vikings are hoping Wilson can be the latest diamond in the rough on a roster full of them. Everson Griffen (fourth-round pick), Danielle Hunter (third-round pick), Stefon Diggs (fifth-round pick) and Adam Thielen (undrafted) all have gone from after-thoughts to stars for the Vikings.
“For the most part he’s done well,” coach Mike Zimmer said, though he added that he doesn’t think teams are necessarily giving as much attention to Wilson as they would to Barr. “I don’t think (Sunday) was his best game. Those other games he’s played pretty well.”
“He’s a smart football player,” Barr said. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder and wants to be great. I think he’s done a very good job.”
It remains to be seen whether that is enough for Wilson to garner more defensive snaps moving forward.
“I want to play on this defense and have a positive impact,” Wilson said.