This week the Titans signed former Arkansas Razorback quarterback Tyler Wilson to a 3 year deal likely in the range he got with the Oakland Raiders which was 3 years and approximately $1.5 million. Wilson’s path to the NFL has taken several strange turns, but to truly understand where he is and why you have to go back to his junior year as a hotshot quarterback at the University of Arkansas.
In 2011, Wilson set the college world on fire with his playmaking ability and big arm. Wilson was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, putting up big numbers and ended the year being named All SEC by the Associated Press and college coaches. In 2011, Wilson went 277 of 438 for 3638 with 24 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. His completion percentage was 63.2 while his passer rating was 148.4. These numbers aren’t flukes as you can see from game footage below.
Wilson put up equally big numbers in 2012 but his success declined after losing some of his supporting cast at wide receiver. The departure of head coach Bobby Petrino was big as well. Wilson went 249 of 401 for 3387 yards and 21 interceptions. Unfortunately, he doubled his interception rate from 2011 at 13. His completion percentage likewise dropped to 62.1 and his passer rating was 143.8. The decline wasn’t seen in just his numbers. You can tell from the game film that his mechanics regressed a bit. He was also under fire much more often as his receivers struggled to find open space. Still, he didn’t appear to see the field as well either.
Prior to the draft, many felt Wilson was one of the better prospects in the draft. He had good height and other measurables the only knock on him being his hands which measured at 8 3/4 inches. Many praised his toughness and moxie but ultimately he fell to the Oakland Raiders in round 4 at pick number 112.
Initial reports out of Oakland were glowing. Wilson was doing well and seem poised to take the starting job. Then for whatever reason the wheels fell off. Wilson was released before the season started and no team claimed him. He would be added to the Raider’s 53 following an injury to Terrelle Pryor but released again when Pryor got healthy. Again, no team claimed him.
Some who cover the Raiders put this down as an indictment of Raider’s General Manager Reggie McKenzie. It might also be an indictment of a Raiders’ coaching staff that surely wanted Wilson but did nothing to assist him in his development. Regardless, Wilson needed a change and he couldn’t have gone to a better place.
I have been critical of Titans quarterback coach Dave Ragone but he deserves a lot of credit for what he did with Jake Locker. Before Ragone became his coach, Locker had never posted a completion percentage over 58.2 and that was in his spectacular junior year at Washington. Before going down to injury in 2013, Locker was having a fantastic year going 111 of 183 for 1256 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He had a career high completion rating of 60.7 and a passer rating of 86.7. Simply put, under Ragone Locker improved greatly and was putting up career numbers.
Signing Wilson to a 3 year deal has little downside here. If it doesn’t work out you move on and you really haven’t lost anything. On the flip side, if Ragone can work his magic with Wilson the Titans just might have gotten a steal. Wilson has talent there is no doubt. Can he recover from the debacle at Oakland and regain his form? Sometimes all a player needs is a new home and an opportunity. Wilson will be the third quaterback and can sit and learn with a team who has shown faith in him. These things are important.
I like this signing and hope it works out. Having watched Wilson play at Arkansas I’m keenly aware of what he can do. Hopefully, some time to develop and learn will help him and we will see him compete with other quarterbacks in training camp next year.
Finally, signing Wilson really helps the Titans manage their upcoming draft. The class at quarterback is shrinking with several players announcing they are not declaring this year. Frankly, the Titans want to see what Locker can do in 2014 anyway so drafting a quarterback this year didn’t’ make a ton of sense. They can now use their picks to shore up other areas, primarily on defense, on the offensive line and at running back.