When injuries strike players have to step up oftentimes into roles they haven't previously held. And sometimes those circumstances reveal new and unexpected skill sets that can change how the player is viewed within the system. This year, Mack Wilson is one of those players, thrust into an expanded role on the edge during passing downs where he is beginning to stack successful games on top of each other while making impact plays.
Wilson had a sack, a forced fumble and nearly an interception against the Broncos, as he was a key cog in the Patriots defensive effort. That performance came on the heels of sacks against both the Steelers and Chiefs, as not only is Wilson making plays, he's starting to make them consistently.
Wilson signed with the Patriots on a one-year deal in 2022 and played 21 percent of the defensive snaps and 69 percent of the special teams snaps. He again re-signed with the Pats in 2023, and now he's putting the year's worth of experience to good use. With the early season-ending injury sustained by Matthew Judon, Wilson has been one of the primary players to pick up the slack lost with the Patriots star edge rusher.
"Mack's had a really good year for us," said head coach Bill Belichick last week of Wilson. "He's a tremendous athlete. Fast, explosive, very strong, and a very talented player. But, I think [a year of experience] allowed him to play faster and aggressively. He still has his full role in the kicking game. He has a big role on defense. He's emerged into the pass rush grouping on third down with a couple of the guys that we've lost there. And he's retained that through his performance."
"With it being my second year in the same system, it allows me to be comfortable and allows me to be myself when I'm out there," said Wilson. "Now there's no second-guessing, it's all just playing fast, playing physical, get to the ball mentality."
The defensive coaches have taken note of Wilson's expanded contributions, offering that a move to make better use of his athletic talents was probably late in the coming.
"Coming out of last year, Steve [Belichick] and I felt like we kind of let Mack down on some of the things that we knew he was good at, but at the same time didn't want to really overload his plate," said Jerod Mayo. "Coming into this season we said, look, we have to get this guy on the field. He is explosive, he's fast, he can play various roles. And honestly, over the past few months, he's been doing a good job in those roles."
Steve Belichick echoed Mayo's sentiments, as Wilson's speed has been an asset to the defense whether he's getting after the quarterback or making plays in space.
"It seems like he's making plays, he's getting after the quarterback," said Belichick. "He almost had that pick the other night. He just keeps making plays, keeps getting more opportunities and is more productive with them. Working with Mack has been awesome even last year, but this year he just keeps growing as a person, as a player and it's fun to see."
"I've been doing a great job taking advantage of all the opportunities I've been getting this season and making the most of them," said Wilson. "I'm going to continue to keep building on it keep working keep my head down and don't get complacent."