Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson has been an important part of the team’s defense since he joined from the New England Patriots in 2016. He has played in 40 games, racked up 178 combined tackles and intercepted three passes in his three seasons as a Lion.
The veteran finds himself on the roster bubble entering the 2019 season, though. With Quandre Diggs’ recent career revival at safety and the potential of young safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris, Wilson could become expendable. The Lions could also save just over a million dollars by cutting him, eating only $875,000 in dead cap.
Wilson had his first opportunity to prove his worth during Detroit’s preseason opener last Thursday against his former team. He played through the entire first half and had three tackles. He also managed to stand out as the rest of the team failed.
The safety works best out of the box, and is great against the run. He showed off his run defending prowess in the preseason opener. On this play in the first quarter, he shot into the backfield for a tackle for loss.
He also made a play that did not show up in the box score in the second quarter. Wilson shot into the backfield on this play, and forced a run to bounce outside. The Patriots running back ran right into the hands of a Lions edge defender on a play that should have been a tackle for loss. The edge defender missed the tackle, but had the likes of Trey Flowers or Devon Kennard been out there, it likely would have been a play for a loss.
Wilson also has always been a smart play diagnoser when playing in the box, and he showed off a bit of it when he got across the box to stuff a run late in the first quarter.
His day was not perfect, though. Wilson shot into the backfield for another potential tackle for loss on this second-quarter play. He missed, though, but did manage to slow down the runner in the backfield.
This play is still great. Wilson again showed his ability to quickly knife into the backfield and cause problems for the opposing offense. He missed the tackle, though, and a player on the roster bubble cannot afford to make small execution errors like this.
We already knew that Wilson was a great run defender coming into the game, though. Diggs is a better run defender and is just as good dropping back into coverage. Wilson did not make any plays in coverage Thursday,.
It is not his fault—the Patriots are not a team that stretches defenses downfield much, their back up quarterbacks are not particularly great downfield passers, and the Lions corners were absolutely awful in coverage —but he did not prove much Thursday.
Wilson looked great Thursday and clearly showed that he can play a role on this defense. On a day where everyone looked terrible, he made a case for himself on the roster, but he still has more to do in the coming weeks if he is going to be a Lion this year.