Raiders' Tyree Wilson embracing healthy offseason

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Thursday, May 30, 2024

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The questions came flying at Tyree Wilson like so many chip blocks, double-teams and angry pulling guards with bad intentions.

"What are you eating?"

"Who's your nutritionist?"

"How are you stretching?"

Maxx Crosby wanted to know. And Wilson, the Las Vegas Raiders' 2023 first-round draft pick who suffered through an oft-tortuous rookie season as a fellow edge rusher last year, wanted to be asked.

Rather, Wilson wanted to be pushed by the three-time Pro Bowler. Because after playing "catch-up" the entirety of his first season recovering from a broken right foot and ensuing surgeries on it, Wilson is now healthy, focused on football and leaning on Crosby to help him make that jump in Year 2.

"Coming in from college, you think you've got everything figured out," Wilson said during the first week of OTAs. "But this year, I just slowed back down, started taking the coaching and just come out here and work. You gain respect by the actions that you put in, and it just really helped me take more steps up this year.

"I mean, I feel like it starts off the field. You've got to have good weight, good eating habits, sleeping habits, to be the best on the field. I learned that from a leader in the room."

Yes, that leader is Crosby, who has transformed himself from a Day 3 draft pick in 2019 to being the face of the franchise.

That they essentially have the same job description -- disrupting and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks -- made the coaching easier, to both convey and to take.

"I'm always on him because I want what's best for him," Crosby said of Wilson. "When you're a rookie, you don't truly know anything. You're just trying to learn and absorb as much information as you possibly can and put yourself in the best position to succeed. And if you don't have a blueprint, you're lost."

Enter Crosby the Architect, who sees a little bit of himself in Wilson. Even if Wilson was a No. 7 overall draft pick out of Texas Tech and Crosby was selected 106th overall from Eastern Michigan.

"When I was young, I was literally relying off just playing my ass off and not quitting on anything," Crosby said. "That was my niche ... I would just make plays and get sacks just by effort alone.

"A guy like Tyree, he's got all the tools and intangibles and everything like that. But for him, it's just about being consistent."


"It sounds like cliche bulls---, but at the end of the day, you've got to show up every single day and put the work in, and I feel like he's in a good spot right now," Crosby said. "He's got a ton of room to grow, he knows that, and he's just got to keep showing up, be constantly curious. If you're like that, you're going to give yourself the best chance to have success in this league."

A year ago, the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Wilson's pursuit of NFL quarterbacks came with a decided limp, both real and figurative.

Wilson broke the foot planting it while trying to turn the corner around a right tackle for Texas Tech in a Nov. 12, 2022, game against Kansas, ending his collegiate career.

The Raiders' previous regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels were not scared off by Wilson needing a pair of follow-up procedures on the foot. Even as he missed the entirety of the Raiders' offseason program and did not suit up until Las Vegas had joint training camp practices with the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 16, 2023.

"I was definitely playing catch up," Wilson said. "I was still limited in the movement, just because of the foot."

Wilson's learning curve was also accelerated with veteran Chandler Jones leaving the team, forcing Wilson into heavier action quicker than planned and stunting his learning curve.

He did not have the immediate positive impact a No. 7 overall draft pick is supposed to make. Rather, he was still learning how to improve his "get-off" time from the line of scrimmage with the snap of the ball.

Wilson did lead all Raiders rookies with 472 defensive snaps but did not get his first sack until Week 7. And while he finished with 3.5 sacks, tied for eighth-most among all NFL rookies, his pass rush win rate of 4.9% was 11th, and last, among all qualified rookies on the D-line.

Wilson did not start making a true impact until after Ziegler and McDaniels were fired midseason and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, with then-interim coach Antonio Pierce's blessing, began moving Wilson around the defensive line.

Particularly to the interior.

"Me bumping inside really just slowed down the thinking and helped with my eyes and my hands," Wilson said. "You really don't have much time to think -- it's on you quick -- so all you can do is react. And then when you work on the inside and then move back outside, everything slows back down."

Graham was a tad more technical.

"It teaches them to use their hands, because they're dealing with the more immediate block from the guard or the center," Graham said, "so I thought that was really critical to Tyree's development [and] that's going to help him out on the edge. The whole offseason, he's doing what everybody else is doing.

"They've got a great kinship or camaraderie going on in that D-line room and it's infectious and it's spreading throughout the defense ... it's a beautiful thing to see."

As defensive playcaller and middle linebacker Robert Spillane said, a player's biggest jump occurs between Years 1 and 2.

"It's because they get to see a full offseason, they get to see what the NFL is all about, they get to see how to take care of their bodies, how to prepare," Spillane said. "So, we're expecting to see a huge upswing from Tyree. I know he expects to see it in his game as well. And when you get a guy who's very talented and eager and hungry to get out there and work, the only thing to do is go up."

An added bonus?

Besides Crosby on the outside, Wilson can now lean on a premier defensive tackle in free agent signee Christian Wilkins when it comes to taking on bigger interior linemen, staying lower in the gaps and attacking running backs hitting the holes.

But Wilson's initial lessons are still (always?) doled out by Crosby.

"This league is dog eat dog," Crosby said. "So yeah, I'm rooting for Tyree. I'm going to constantly stay on him, and he's just got to be consistent and continue falling in love with the process."

Any more questions?

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