clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NY Jets Spotlight: Muhammad Wilkerson

New, comments

Time for Big Mo to shine in the desert night.

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome 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", 315 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 New York 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 12 sacks in 2015, his second  double digit sack year, and elite run stopping abilities, Wilkerson richly earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, as well as a lucrative new contract.

Here are Wilkerson's statistics for the first five 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

39

25

12

7

3

2016

14

5

1.5

2

0

Now in his sixth year with the Jets, Wilkerson is a stalwart on a talented Jets defensive line that has thus far underperformed in 2016.  Wilkerson himself, after opening with an excellent game against the Bengals, has tailed off in his play, failing to record a sack in each of his last four games.  Last week against the Steelers Wilkerson looked particularly ineffectual against a less than stellar Steelers tackle.  Monday night's matchup with the Arizona Cardinals provides an opportunity for Wilkerson to rebound from what has been a disappointing year to this point.

The Jets pass defense will be facing an opponent in the Cardinals that like to employ a vertical passing attack more than any NFL team.  Such a vertical attack takes time for the plays to develop, providing extra tenths of a second for the pass rush to get to the quarterback.  The Cardinals' quarterback, Carson Palmer, is not mobile and is not a threat to run.  This provides the Jets vaunted defensive line, and Wilkerson in particular, an opportunity to take over the game for the first time since opening day.   If Wilkerson and his fellow pass rushers can consistently bring the heat against the Cardinals, a mistake prone Palmer might cough up the football a few times, paving the way for a Jets victory.   If on the other hand the Cardinals find a way to limit the Jets pass rush and give Palmer time, the Jets porous secondary does not figure to be able to stand up to the Cardinals' vertical attack.   With the season's playoff hopes hanging by a thread, now would be an especially nice game for Wilkerson to earn the megabucks he got with his 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 begin to emerge from his season long slump.  If we see Wilkerson take down Carson Palmer and hound him all night in prime time, if we see Big Mo be a generally disruptive force in both the pass defense and the run defense,  then the Jets should be well positioned to come home from their trip to the desert with a 2-4 record.  If on the other hand Wilkerson is contained, Palmer just might break out and all but end the season for the Jets.  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 Monday night.