The Kansas City Chiefs added to their linebacker corps on Thursday, signing free agent Damien Wilson.
Here are five things to know about the newest member of the Chiefs’ defense.
A fourth-round pick out of Minnesota in 2015, Wilson racked up 98 tackles (69 solo), eight tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks in 64 career games (22 starts) with Dallas over four seasons.
He started seven games for the Cowboys in 2018, tallying 32 tackles (25 solo), two tackles-for-loss, a forced fumble and a sack.
His lone sack was the fourth-fastest in the NFL last season at just 2.04 seconds.
Wilson played outside linebacker in Dallas’ 4-3 defensive scheme and primarily did so as the strong-side, or SAM, linebacker. Nineteen of Wilson’s 22 career-starts for the Cowboys were at the SAM position.
Essentially, a 4-3 defense includes three linebackers while in its base formation: the weak-side linebacker (WILL), middle linebacker (MIKE) and strong-side linebacker (SAM). It remains to be seen how he’ll be used in Kansas City.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that Wilson was taught all three positions while in Dallas.
Wilson and Hitchens were teammates for three years in Dallas from 2015-17, sharing the field as starters 13 times. Hitchens lined up at middle linebacker while Wilson was on the strong-side for most of those occasions, but both players did a little bit of everything.
The duo is now reunited in Kansas City.
Wilson logged 345 special teams snaps last season – or 82.9 percent of the Cowboys’ total – to lead the team by a wide margin. He also led the team in that category in 2017 and finished second in 2016 by just four snaps.
The guy is comfortable contributing on special teams.
Wilson’s journey to this point began as a virtually unknown recruit in rural Mississippi. He caught the eye of Alcorn State and thrived as a defensive end before transferring to Jones County Community College the following year in the hopes of landing at a bigger school.
That goal was realized as a junior when Wilson transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he became a linebacker and finished second on the team with 78 tackles. His senior season was even better, highlighted by a team-leading 119 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks.
His efforts earned him a First-Team All-Big 10 selection by the media after the season.
While at Minnesota, Wilson played alongside Chiefs’ safety Eric Murray from 2013-14. The former Golden Gophers swapped jerseys after Kansas City’s matchup with Dallas in 2017.
The two players are now back together on the Chiefs’ defense.
A year after Anthony Hitchens left Dallas to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, another Cowboys linebacker plans to do the same.
A source confirmed Tuesday that former Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson intends to sign with the Chiefs when the new league year begins on Wednesday.
Wilson tweeted Tuesday: “The cowboys will always be in my heart and the fans have been unbelievably classy and supportive every year that I have been apart of the team. You will be missed dallas.”
Wilson, a fourth round pick in 2015, played in every game over his four seasons in Dallas. He started seven games last season at strongside linebacker, playing 28 percent of Dallas’ defensive snaps. He finished the 2018 season with a career-high 37 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
But his departure doesn’t come as a surprise. The Cowboys are returning six of the linebackers that were on their roster last season, including standout starters Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith. Veteran Sean Lee recently restructured his contract to remain with the club and play in a reserve role after being a starter for the past nine years.
The position group has become one of Dallas’ greatest strengths.
Wilson was also a significant special teams contributor, playing 82.5 percent of the special teams snaps last season.
Reserve linebackers Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard and Chris Covington are expected to compete for the extra snaps.
Wilson was arrested on two charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after police said he backed his truck into a woman and flashed a rifle at a man outside Toyota Stadium in Frisco on July 4, 2017. He was cleared of the charges three months later.
Linebacker Damien Wilson is set to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs at the start of free agency Wednesday afternoon, according to multiple reports.
Wilson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played his college ball at the University of Minnesota. He has bounced back and forth between being a starter and a backup during his four year career in Dallas.
Last season Wilson started seven games, racking up 37 tackles and a sack. It is expected that he will play strong side linebacker in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 scheme, just as he did for the Cowboys. He could also be a contributor on special teams.
Wilson’s deal is for two seasons. Things could of course change between now and the start of the regular season, but Wilson projects to be an early favorite to start at SLB.
Wilson is a thumper who plays with high energy. He was limited in Dallas due to the amount of nickel defense it plays. The Chiefs probably feel there is untapped potential in Wilson and that he just needs more opportunities. At just 25 years old his best football could very well still be in front of him.
Damien Wilson might be a smaller linebacker, but his exceptional length allows him to make plays many other “small” linebackers couldn’t. He’s a productive, very active player with a high tackle count in each of his two starting seasons and a nose for the ball. Wilson is agile enough to survive in coverage and off the ball, and he’ll attack and run down the ball outside the hashes.
Wilson doesn’t do well with blockers in his face and can shy away from a power-run game at the second level. He’ll get caught out of position and can take himself out of plays too often for a 4-3 inside linebacker. His vision is good, but his follow-through is not.