NEW YORK (WFAN) — If there is one guy who doesn’t listen to armchair quarterbacks, it’s Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Jets’ star defensive end told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday that when he looks at this team’s roster all he sees is players improving with each passing day. He doesn’t see a team picked by many during the preseason to win at most a handful of games this season and have a new head coach by next season.
So, the fact that the Jets are 2-1 doesn’t really surprise him all that much.
“We know we are a talented team, a great group of guys who believe in each other. We’re just going to go out and do our job, execute the game plan and do the best we can to get the win,” Wilkerson said.
It’s hard to argue with Wilkerson’s sentiments, especially when analyzing Rex Ryan’s bread and butter — the defense.
The Jets’ front four was relentless against the run during last Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Buffalo Bills. Fred Jackson finished with 72 yards on the ground, but most of them came on one play. C.J. Spiller, a player many thought would give the Jets trouble, had 9 yards on 10 carries before getting hurt.
Wilkerson said the Jets watched a ton of film on Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel and knew that despite the danger he poses as a scrambler he prefers to stay in the pocket. Knowing that, the Jets saw red all afternoon, registering eight sacks and limiting Manuel to just 19 completions in 42 attempts.
“It’s just guys executing the game plan. Give credit to the coaches for putting together a great game plan. It was 11 guys out there executing that game plan,” Wilkerson said.
Though the Jets have done a fine job containing players like Doug Martin, Tom Brady and the aforementioned Bills stars through three games, they really haven’t forced that many turnovers. In fact, they have just one fumble recovery and an interception. Wilkerson said they plan on ball-hawking a bit more going forward.
“Rex spoke to the defense about that, make sure we attack the ball. That’s something we are going to focus on the rest of the season. We’re going to try to get the offense the ball back so they can do what they do,” Wilkerson said.
Despite the lack of turnovers, the defense is right there with the best in the NFL.
The Jets are allowing 16.7 points per game and are currently third in the NFL in total defense, allowing just 270 yards per game. They are seventh against the pass (190.1 ypg), sixth against the run (79.7 ypg), and have allowed the fewest first downs per game in the league (13). They are also second in third-down conversion against (27 percent).
Wilkerson cited the play of some of the Jets’ youngest players, saying the team would be nowhere right now without the contributions of nose tackle Damon Harrison and linebacker DeMario Davis. He also said to expect more good things from linebacker Quinton Coples and rookie corner Dee Milliner as the season goes on.
Though it appears this defense can only beat itself, it almost did against the Bills. WFAN’s Roberts said the Jets became the first team since 1951 to commit 20 penalties in a game and yet still win. Kyle Wilson’s meltdown featuring four successive penalties during one fourth quarter drive contributed greatly to the Jets being in a much tighter game than the statistics suggested. Wilson repeatedly took the bait from Bills receiver Stevie Johnson, something Wilkerson said he’d be shocked if his teammate ever does again, against anyone.
“Some of the coaches on the sideline talked to him and let him know he can’t get involved in a personal match. Kyle will learn from that,” Wilkerson said.
It appears the Jets as a team are going to learn from that as well, now that Ryan has instituted a physical fine for everyone but the person who is flagged.
“We know we don’t want to get penalties and know it’s a more of a mental thing. So we have to stay on top of it as individuals and as a team,” said Wilkerson, who had two sacks but was also called for offsides twice against Buffalo. “It just shows the one guy who is not doing the push-ups is hurting the team. So we are going to make sure we tighten up our penalties this week.”
The Jets take on the Titans in Tennessee on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. Wilkerson said if they get to 3-1 by the end of the day there will be at least 53 guys who won’t be surprised.
“At the end of the day, we have a great team and an organization who believes in each other, and we’re going to go out there and fight our butts off every weekend,” Wilkerson said.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories