MIAMI GARDENS — He’s lighter than every quarterback on the roster and likely would have trouble posting up against the punter. The Dolphins’ roster lists him as 213, but even that’s generous.
“Two-oh-eight,” Jeff Wilson says of his actual weight.
Acceptable weight, you figure, for a scat back.
Except Jeff Wilson isn’t a scat back.
He ran for 119 yards in Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Browns by, well, running over the Cleveland Browns. By Monday, he even had coach Mike McDaniel coining a new word for the impact of his playing style: “Wilsonitis.”
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“A guy like him that brings energy every time he touches the ball, I think that is infectious,” McDaniel said. ” … I think he electrifies the defense, too, because when you’re on the sidelines and you see someone punishing defenders and straining and doing everything they can for each and every yard, it makes every eligible (player) better.”
Yes, the defensive players definitely noticed.
“It’s fun to watch him rush,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “I don’t know who pisses him off before every game, but damn.”
Wilson, 19 pounds lighter than Browns running back Nick Chubb, personifies good things coming in small packages. The Dolphins traded for him two weeks ago, sending just a fifth-round draft pick to San Francisco for a running back now on pace for 1,085 yards this season. The 49ers no longer needed Wilson’s services after trading for Christian McCaffrey.
Jeff Wilson out to prove he’s ‘not just anybody’
To answer Wilkins’ burning question, it’s not a matter of who ticked off Wilson, but what. The NFL did, turning him into a personification of Kyle Brandt’s “Angry Runs” on NFL Network each Tuesday.
“I’ve been undrafted,” said Wilson, who signed with the 49ers out of North Texas.
“I’ve been practice squad. I’ve been put down. Told I ain’t good enough. I’ve been told you could play but you’re not a starter in this league. Like I heard it all, you know what I mean? It’s just to the point I just want my respect. Yeah. I want people to understand that I can play in this game with the best of them.
“And I ain’t just anybody. I’m somebody that you have to plan for in your game plan or somebody you have to think about during the week. And that’s how I’m coming in.”
He’s coming, and coming, and coming. Wilson carried 17 times against the Browns and averaged 7.0 yards per carry. He scored on a 20-yard run, but the best indicator of the sledgehammer effect he can have on defenses is this: On 10 of his 17 runs, Wilson gained at least 5 yards. He’s relentless.
With the ball in his hand, Wilson has one thing on his mind as he closes in on a would-be tackler: “He’s not going to touch me. Like I said, I’ve been through too much in my life. And I’m not taking no for an answer and I’m taking no prisoners.”
A balanced Dolphins offense means ‘trouble’ for rest of NFL
If Wilson can come anywhere close to that kind of impact going forward, the ripple effect would be massive. The Dolphins entered the Browns game with the No. 2 passing offense in the league. Cleveland held Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to a combined nine receptions for 110 yards and still lost by 23 points. The Dolphins rushed for a season-high 195 yards.
“Trouble,” Wilson said of what a balanced Miami offense would mean for the rest of the NFL. “It’s trouble for a lot of people and this is going to be some long, long weeks for some teams.”
Having also come over from San Francisco, McDaniel knew why the Dolphins should target Wilson via trade. He was obtained Nov. 1, the same day the Dolphins sent a package including running back Chase Edmonds and a first-round pick to Denver for Bradley Chubb. The addition of a premium edge rusher in Chubb overshadowed the Wilson deal — until Dolphins fans got a taste of what he offers to the backfield.
Wilson doesn’t mind, calling Chubb “a tremendous player” whose $110 million contract extension is “well-deserved.” Likewise, his unselfishness became clear following the Browns game when he was asked to recall his most satisfying run. You’d think, with the production he had, it would be an easy question. And it was — in a roundabout way.
“I’m not going to claim one of my runs was the best,” Wilson said. “Honestly, it will be the run Raheem (Mostert) scored on because I feel that was the moment. It was just like, yeah, we know the ground game is here. It’s stamped.”
Mostert, whose 24-yard touchdown put Miami in command at 24-7, had eight carries for 65 yards (an 8.1 average) and zero complaints.
“We’ve worked together for a number of years,” said Mostert, a former teammate of Wilson’s in San Francisco. “For him to come in and play the role that he’s doing, I can’t be much prouder. I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week: He’s definitely a guy that we can count on in the run game. I’m just happy for him, because like I said, I saw him when he was just crawling in the league, and now he’s blossoming. He’s doing unbelievable things. We feast off each other. We’re a good 1-2 punch.”
Is there a cure for Wilsonitis? That’s what opponents hope to figure out when the Dolphins return from this bye week. Wilson’s face lit up when told of McDaniel’s label.
“I guess you could say that,” Wilson said. “But it’s just me. That’s how I play the game and that’s how I’ve always played the game.”