The Jets recently poached rookie defensive back Rachad Wildgoose from the Bills’ practice squad. Today, we break down Wildgoose in detail.
The 21-year old Wildgoose is listed at 5’10” and 191 pounds and was a sixth round pick out of Wisconsin in April. Wildgoose is yet to make his NFL debut.
Wildgoose was a three star safety recruit out of high school and was recruited to Wisconsin where he started 17 games over three seasons.
As a freshman, Wildgoose started in seven of 10 games. recording 29 tackles, seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
In the following season, he played in all 13 games, starting eight. He registered 22 tackles, six passes defensed and an interception.
In 2020, Wildgoose played two games but then got injured and decided to sit out the rest of the season to enter the draft. He had six tackles and a pass breakup.
Wildgoose wasn’t invited to the scouting combine, but he was drafted in the sixth round by the Bills. However, he failed to make their roster in final cuts and had spent his entire rookie year on the practice squad until the Jets claimed him last week.
Now let’s take a look at what Wildgoose brings to the table, divided into categories.
Unofficially, Wildgoose ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. However, his official time was listed as 4.53 and his results for strength, explosiveness and agility were about average across the board. He also lacks ideal size and length.
On the field, he has adequate long speed and can break on the ball with good burst but his recovery speed can be lacking.
Wildgoose, who was a safety in high school, has played both on the outside and in the slot at Wisconsin. He made two of his seven starts in the slot as a freshman and played more in the slot than on the boundary in his sophomore year. However, in 2020 and in preseason action with the Bills, he played exclusively outside.
Wildgoose posted pretty good coverage numbers in college, as he allowed a catch rate of just 53 percent over the course of his career. He also showed some development, as he got beaten for five touchdowns in his first 18 games, but none over his last seven.
He plays with a combination of foot speed, physicality and route anticipation. However, his technique needs a bit of cleaning up at times as he can display some hip flexibility issues and is not always smooth in his transition. He’ll also fail to trust his technique at times, leading to him panicking and getting out of sequence.
Here’s a play where Wildgoose gives up a big catch because he loses at the line and is unable to recover.
He’s displayed an ability to stay tight with his man, displaying physicality throughout the route to disrupt his man or leverage him into the sideline.
Wildgoose had just one interception in his college career, on a downfield throw that was overthrown and out of the receiver’s reach. However, he displayed an ability to make plays on the ball with 14 pass breakups in 25 games at Wisconsin. He then also broke up two passes in three preseason games with the Bills.
His timing and ability to disrupt at the catchpoint are impressive. Here’s a great play that saw him break on the ball and strip it loose to force an incompletion.
He was also credited with a pass defensed on this play as he did a good job of staying tight with the receiver and forcing him over to the sideline. However, it would be more encouraging if he could also get his head turned to locate and make a play on the ball.
Wildgoose developed a reputation as a good tackler with the Badgers, as he displays an ability to make solid stops in open space on plays like this.
He did, however, also miss a lot of tackles in college, although he again improved on this after his freshman year. Here’s a missed tackle where he overran the play in preseason.
Wildgoose had a couple of forced fumbles at Wisconsin, both of which were during his freshman season.
Wildgoose also showed improvements against the run after his freshman season. He recorded five tackles for loss in 2019 and 2020 having had none in 2018.
He shows his willingness to contribute in run support on this fourth down, getting enough of the runner in the backfield to help prevent him from getting to the marker on fourth down.
On this play, Wildgoose gets caught too far inside and loses contain on Justin Herbert’s option keeper.
As noted, Wildgoose will display some physicality when in coverage, leaning on his man down the field to disrupt routes. He also displays some promise in press coverage, with an ability to disrupt his man with the jam.
It’s fair to suggest that he probably needs to add some bulk over the course of his rookie season because he can struggle to get off blocks or stop NFL ball carriers cold in the open field.
Wildgoose hasn’t done a lot of blitzing in his career and didn’t blitz at all in preseason with the Bills. He had two pressures in his college career but no sacks.
Wildgoose didn’t make many significant special teams contributions in college, with just one tackle in kick coverage and one special teams penalty for getting his hand caught in an opponent’s facemask while blocking.
He showed a bit of promise in a variety of roles in preseason with the Bills though. He blocked on the return unit, covered kickoffs and rushed field goals and extra points. He also saw action as a vice on the punt return unit and, briefly, as a punt gunner.
On one of the plays where he was a gunner, he got downfield well and although he missed his tackle, the return man went out of bounds. He then also got down well to get in on this stop.
Wildgoose didn’t seem to blow any coverages but can give his man too much of a cushion or too much room down the field at times.
He displays pretty good eye discipline in his ability to contribute against short passes like this.
While he was with the Badgers, Wildgoose was praised by defensive coordinator and former Jets safety Jim Leonhard for his work ethic, maturity and confidence.
His on-field discipline developed over the course of his career with the Badgers, as he had eight penalties in his first season but only four in the rest of his career. He did have this penalty in preseason though.
Wildgoose was limited to just two games last season as he missed a game due to Covid protocols and then injured his shoulder. It sounds like he perhaps could have returned before the end of the year from the injury but decided to concentrate on his draft preparation instead.
Wildgoose should join the Jets with a chance to compete for time as an outside cornerback, especially since Brandin Echols might be out for about a month.
His ability to play in the slot could also get him in the mix there and the team will like that versatility. His skill-set generally should lend itself to the current Jets’ system where he could be called upon to drop into zone coverage or disrupt up at the line.
Wildgoose’s film displays some good potential and he could be someone who becomes more effective as he adds some strength and refines his technique.
At this stage of the season, it’s unlikely the Jets would turn to someone without any regular season experience for emergency cover, but they could be interested to get a look at him down the stretch to evaluate whether he can be a contributor in the longer term.