All of Jets nation was thrilled when they finally got their man. No, I’m not talking about Ryan Fitzpatrick (I’ll save that fiasco for another time). When the team signed defensive end, Muhammad Wilkerson, everyone took a sigh of relief. Wilkerson signed a 5-year, $86 million deal on July 15, instead of playing out this season unsigned and under the team’s franchise tag.
Wilkerson has since joined the team for training camp, but is not participating due to a broken leg he suffered in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills last year. For a while it seemed like Wilkerson would not show up to training camp at all. Wilkerson hasn’t strapped on the pads just yet, but he has started running without a boot on and all signs indicate on an optimistic return. He was recently taken off the PUP list on August 8.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Wilkerson said. “The leg is getting better each and every day. I’ll be ready for Week 1.”
Wilkerson, who made his first Pro Bowl last year, after recording 12 sacks and 69 tackles, both of which were career highs for the fifth year lineman. The team has high expectations for Wilkerson again, along with the rest of the defensive line that is one of the most dynamic in the league with Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and the newest addition Steve McLendon.
“We can be as good as we want to be, as long as we’re all putting in the work day after day and pushing each other to be great,” Wilkerson said. “We had a good record last year and just have to build on that.”
Since entering the league, Wilkerson has been one of the most versatile and disruptive defensive linemen in the league. The Jets use him all over the line, from playing on his normal left side of the 3-4 base defense, to moving him inside as a big run stopper. He came into the league as one of the best run stoppers in college and has really transformed his game and has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Since he was recently cleared to play, Wilkerson will now have some time to get ready for week 1. He is scheduled to play in two preseason games but will sit out the first one on Thursday night, August 11, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Wilkerson is one to watch coming off his injury and the team is hopeful that he can return to his Pro Bowl form he had last season. The Jets finished fifth in total defense and ninth in points allowed. Wilkerson is arguably the Jets best player and for them to be in playoff hunt, he’ll need to be the head of the dragon for the defense.
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