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NY Jets Friday Spotlight: Muhammad Wilkerson

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Big Mo needs to shine in England.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Muhammad Wilkerson.

Muhammad Wilkerson, a 6' 4", 310 pound defensive end out of Temple University, is a local guy made good, having grown up just a few miles from MetLife Stadium, in the shadow of New Jersey's infamous oil refineries, in Linden New Jersey.  After a stellar career at Temple University, Wilkerson was drafted by the Jets with the 30th overall selection in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.  With long arms, great strength, excellent quickness and agility for a man his size, and an outstanding motor, Wilkerson had the ideal makeup of a 34 defensive end, and his career has not disappointed.

After being brought along slowly in his rookie year and impressing in limited snaps, Wilkerson became a force against the run in 2012, and by 2013 had added very good pass rushing skills to his repertoire.   With 10.5 sacks in 2013 and elite run stopping abilities, Wilkerson richly earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, but was denied the honor by the Pro Bowl's ritual ignorance.  Instead Wilkerson earned 2nd team All Pro honors in 2012, 2013, and 2014, which begs the question, how could the second team All Pro not be good enough to ever make a Pro Bowl?

Here are Wilkerson's statistics for the first three plus years of his career.

Year

Tackles

Assists

Sacks

Passes Defended

Forced Fumbles

.

2011

35

14

3

2

1

2012

36

33

5

4

3

2013

43

20

10.5

3

2

2014

31

25

6.0

5

1

2015

8

10

1.5

1

1

Now in his fifth year with the Jets, Wilkerson is a steady source of strength and excellence on an outstanding Jets defensive line.  Wilkerson is off to an excellent start to the 2015 season, playing as well as almost any defensive lineman in the NFL.  With his contract issues in limbo and his Jets future a bit in doubt, Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins provides an opportunity for Wilkerson to continue to show the Jets that he deserves the big bucks he's asking for.

The Jets pass defense will be facing an opponent in the Dolphins that is struggling mightily in pass protection.  With problems at guard and tackle, the Dolphins have thus far been unable to provide quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the time he needs to be effective.  Cue Big Mo.  With Sheldon Richardson sidelined with a pulled brain muscle, Wilkerson is the Jets' best pass rusher right now by a country mile.  If Wilkerson and his fellow pass rushers can consistently bring the heat against a porous Miami line the Jets should be well on their way to a 3-1 record at the quarter mark of the season. If on the other hand the Dolphins find a way to limit Wilkerson's effectiveness in the pass rush and give Tannehill time, the Dolphins have more than enough talent to give the Jets real trouble on Sunday.  With a division game on the line here, now would be an especially nice game for Wilkerson to earn his hoped for new contract.

This is the time for Muhammad Wilkerson to excel.  This is an opportunity tailor made for a breakout performance from Wilkerson, a chance to show once again why he deserves that huge payday he has been looking for.  If we see Wilkerson  take down Ryan Tannehill multiple times Sunday and be a generally disruptive force in both the pass defense and the run defense,  then the Jets should be well positioned to escape London with a victory on Sunday.  If on the other hand Wilkerson is contained, Tannehill just might break out and spoil the Jets' chances to come back home at 3-1 headed into the bye.  Either way, Mo should prove to be a pivotal player in this game.   This is Wilkerson's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope he shines come Sunday afternoon.