The New York Jets drafted defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th pick in 2010 following his monster junior season at Temple in which he recorded 9.5 sacks. Wilkerson was immediately plugged into the Jets’ rotation as a 3-4 end playing on the left side, and he became a full-time starter last season.
Wilkerson was very productive for the Jets last season, totaling 69 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. He was thought to be a Pro Bowl candidate, and many observers expect him to have a huge breakout season this year.
The Jets badly need Wilkerson to continue to improve and become the anchor of their defense. This is a team that doesn’t have a lot of young talent, and Wilkerson is one of the precious few players they have with true star potential. Don’t let the numbers fool you as 3-4 ends generally don’t rack up crazy stats (other than the exceptional talent that is J.J. Watt), because Wilkerson played at a near Pro Bowl level last season.
There is every reason to think that Wilkerson can build on last season’s performance and become one of the elite players in the NFL at his position. First of all, he is 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, yet he maintains incredible lateral quickness and burst. He has repeatedly shown his athleticism when forced to seal the edge in the run game.
As a pass rusher, Wilkerson has shown flashes of the potential to be dominant. He matches up against right tackles, who are typically a little less mobile than their counterparts on the left, and that plays right into Wilkerson’s hands. Wilkerson has proven to have a good variety of pass rush moves, and he is capable of shedding blockers easily at the point of attack. Seeing as he is a three-down player, there is a good chance he reaches double-digit sacks this season.
Wilkerson is the type of well-rounded player that every team needs on its defensive line. He is high-motor and hardly ever comes off the field, and he can greatly disrupt the offense in any situation. With an unsettled back seven, the Jets are relying heavily on their defensive line to control the game. No one is more important to that goal than Wilkerson.
The Jets are counting on youth development this season, and Wilkerson is the prime candidate. Expect him to be one of this year’s breakout stars and make the first of what should be many Pro Bowls.