“I’m not gonna sit here and play around. Dennard, man, he been a great coach. He helped me elevate my game to a whole ‘nother level.”
“He ain’t never steered me wrong, not once yet. I’m just surprised that he been in the game 15 years and not had a DC job because he’s a smart dude.”
Those were Darius Slay’s comments last December on Eagles passing game coordinator, Dennard Wilson during a December press conference.
Wilson has been around the block in the NFL.
He got his start as a player as an undrafted free agent signing with the Washington Commanders in 2004. After his playing days, Wilson spent three years as a pro scout with the Chicago Bears from 2008-2011, before finding his footing as a coach. His first job would come as a defensive quality control coach with the Rams from 2012-2014.
Wilson became the Eagles’ defensive backs coach during the 2021 offseason. Before joining the Eagles staff, Wilson served as the New York Jets’ defensive backs coach from 2017-2020.
"Dennard has done so much for me," Adams told the New York Daily News in 2020. "He’s elevated my game to a level from college to being there in the first year to helping me become a two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro. I give so much credit to Dennard. Dennard has been that guy." Jamal Adams
The 40-year-old has a proven past of getting the most out of the talent he’s tasked with coaching.
In 2020, with Wilson as his position coach, Marcus Maye led the Jets secondary in tackles, pass breakups, tackles for loss, and sacks. In addition to this, cornerback Javelin Guidry forced the second most fumbles among NFL defensive backs in 2020.
Under Jonathan Gannon and Wilson, the Eagles’ pass defense ranked 11th in the NFL and gave up the fewest yards per completion in the NFL.
"I try to be the best teacher that I can be whenever I'm out there." "I go out there and teach them and try to motivate them and push them to be the best players they can be. It's business, it's professionalism, but they understand you care. And when you're on them all the time, you have to be on it yourself." Dennard Wilson
In 2021, under Wilson’s tutelage, safety Marcus Epps posted a career year in snaps played, pass break-ups, tackles, and yards allowed per completion. Epps also graded out as the Eagles’ highest graded safety per Pro Football Focus with a 72.8 grade (23rd in the NFL). Epps also ranked 2nd in run defense with an 87.6 grade.
The former sixth-round pick will undoubtedly be Wilson’s biggest task, but he’s already showing promise after a career year.
"All you have to do is put on the film from last year. I was put in a tough situation last year as a coach — not really tough, it was an outstanding situation — because I had depth. I had a guy in Rodney McLeod who I trusted. I had a guy in Anthony Harris who I trusted and played a lot, and I had Marcus, who was also one of those guys. Marcus earned his keep. When you watched Marcus in practice every day last year, he battled his ass off," Wilson said. "He was tough and physical. He was always where he was supposed to be. He made the plays he was supposed to make. "Even though there's 11 playing, you create roles for guys who deserve roles, and he played his role outstanding last year." Dennard Wilson
Garnering respect and connecting with his players in order to get the best out of them are coaching traits that have awarded Wilson a capacity for growth, which is something he’s experienced with every team he’s coached for.
After three seasons with the Rams, Wilson earned the defensive backs coach job. After two seasons with the Jets, Wilson added the title of passing game coordinator. And now with the Eagles, after just one season, he’s earned the title of defensive passing game coordinator.
With a proven track record of production from his units and advancement in his own job title, inevitably Wilson is poised to continue to advance in the coaching ranks.
In a league where (as of 2020) over 57% of players are African American, but only 30% of assistant coaches are African American, and all the rage is seen in trying to find the next ‘boy wonder’ on offense in the vain of a Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay, defensive minds like Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, and Buccaneers defensive coordinator turned head coach Todd Bowles are trying to change the narratives and notions surrounding African American coaches.
Wilson is in line, among other names, to author his own legacy as an African American defensive mind as he continues to rise through the coaching ranks.
Wilson spoke on the integration of minority hires within the Eagles organization.
Howie (Roseman) has done an outstanding job this offseason not only with acquiring talent but also with maneuvering his front office. I wanted to give praise to Howie on how he integrated minorities within the building. Everyone doesn't deserve an opportunity in terms of just giving them jobs, but if you do what you're supposed to do and put the time in and you're invested and you earn it, you do it the hard way, I hope we all get recognized and get opportunities to show our talents and more forward.
With defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon garnering head coaching interest, Wilson is likely the favorite from an internal promotion standpoint. And he knows his time is coming and when it does, he will be ready.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I've been around some great defensive coordinators, in my opinion," Wilson said in a press meeting on Friday. "I've been groomed by Gregg Williams, I've been groomed by Todd Bowles, who are very good in this league, and they're very thorough. I've been tutored by them. I know how to run a ship. I know the responsibilities. So if the opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready for it. But I'm here where my feet are, alright, and I'm just trying to be the best defensive backs coach I can be." Dennard Wilson
Cover Image Credit: PhiladelphiaEagles.com