Mo Knows: Wilkerson becoming big force on Jets’ D
Muhammad Wilkerson is a quiet guy, appearing almost shy during
interviews and deflecting praise.
The New York Jets’ big defensive lineman is anything but timid
on the field.
Wilkerson is developing into a dominating force in his second
NFL season, and while he’s not yet a household name, he’s a big
reason the Jets’ once-struggling defense is ranked eighth in the
”It’s really encouraging just how professional he’s been and
how coachable he’s been,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said
Friday. ”Here’s a guy that’s not repeating mistakes, so the
learning curve with him is just so much faster.”
Wilkerson, a first-round pick out of Temple last year, leads the
Jets with four sacks and 26 quarterback pressures, and is fourth
with 76 tackles. He has forced three fumbles and returned one for a
touchdown. It all has coach Rex Ryan hoping Wilkerson’s offseason
includes a trip to Hawaii the week before the Super Bowl – if the
Jets don’t make it there, of course.
”I promise you that Muhammad Wilkerson gets a vote for Pro Bowl
from Jacksonville,” Ryan said earlier this week. ”I don’t think
there’s any doubt about that. It was a dominant performance for Mo.
It seems like we say it each week.”
Added fellow defensive lineman Mike DeVito: ”I can’t speak
enough good things about him. He’s been a true vet from the moment
he got here. If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this year, it’s going
to be soon.”
All that sort of talk makes Wilkerson happy, but again, he’s
almost made uncomfortable with the kudos.
”I give the credit to (Ryan),” Wilkerson said. ”I’m proud to
be a Jet. They brought me here. I’m going to continue to play like
a Jet and do my best for the defense.”
As he did during one drive in the third quarter of the Jets’
17-10 last Sunday.
On first down, he smacked into Chad Henne, who threw an
incomplete pass. Wilkerson popped Henne even harder on the next
play, causing another errant throw. On third down, Wilkerson blew
between two offensive lineman and slammed Henne into the ground for
”Statistically, he had one sack, but this guy, over and over
again, (running) backs are having to pick him up,” Ryan said.
”It’s rare to have an interior lineman get the attention from the
backs. Usually that’s assigned to an outside edge rusher, but the
backs are helping on Mo time and time again. It just shows you what
the teams are thinking about this guy.
”What a performance by him.”
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Wilkerson showed signs of what was to
come near the end of his rookie season last year, when he was
routinely standing out in games and finished with three sacks.
”I just wanted to achieve more than I did last year,”
Wilkerson said, ”and have a better season than I did last year and
just keep on improving for however many years to come.”
So, how do you think you’re doing, Mo?
”I think I’m doing pretty good,” Wilkerson said, again
crediting his coaches and teammates for helping him along.
He spent the offseason trying to improve his technique and learn
the inner workings of the defense, focusing on things such as what
to do when a guard moves his hands a certain way or how to rebound
on a play in which he has gotten beaten by an offensive lineman and
still make an impact.
The development of his ”football IQ,” as Wilkerson called it,
has been a product of lots of work with new defensive line coach
”We saw it at the end of last year and he really carried it
over this year, and he’s playing at such a high level,” Pettine
said. ”But he’s doing all the little things well.”
There was a scary moment in the offseason, however, when being
on the field might have been the furthest thing from Wilkerson’s
The defensive lineman was in a car accident in New Jersey on
June 23, when he struck another vehicle and his truck flipped over
and came to rest on its roof. Wilkerson needed stitches in one of
his forearms, but otherwise came out OK – as did the passengers in
the other vehicle. Alcohol was not a factor, according to police,
and Wilkerson was cited for careless driving.
Wilkerson said he never worried in the days following the
accident that what he’s achieving now might not be possible.
”I love the game of football,” he said. ”I just knew that I
would approach this year differently and move on, and play better
than I did last year.”
While the fans see it in games, Wilkerson’s teammates have
witnessed the leap he has made every day this season.
”Man, the sky’s the limit for Mo,” nose tackle Sione Po’uha
said. ”This guy is going to be a great player, and more than that,
he’s a great individual. He’s already just a phenomenal player. I
mean, you see the plays he makes out there and you might think he’s
a great player on Sunday, but he’s a beast in practice, too.”
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