NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Jets are hurting following their blowout loss to Tennessee last Sunday. Compounding that, some seem to think the hit Muhammad Wilkerson delivered to Titans quarterback Jake Locker may have been dirty.
Wilkerson told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The officials on the field seemed to agree as the Jets’ defensive end was not penalized. Locker was taken off the field on a cart and will reportedly miss at least a month.
“I feel it was a clean hit. I’m not a dirty player — never was, never will be. But at the end of the day it is out of my hands. I don’t know if I will get fined or not,” Wilkerson said.
Locker took a shot to the chest from Wilkerson and got hit from the side by outside linebacker Quinton Coples a second or so after throwing a pass early in the third quarter. Wilkerson said things happen very fast out on the field, a split second here or there can change the outcomes of games. But he was steadfast in stating there was no intent on his part to do Locker harm.
“Like I said, I’d never try to hurt a player on purpose. I was just doing my job, play hard, physical football. I took one step and hit him and that was that. And once I saw that he was laying there, I said my prayers and then clapped once he was carted off the field to show my sportsmanship,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson could get fined by the league, but even closer to home it appears the Jets will be paying a different kind of fine to their head coach. One week after drawing Rex Ryan’s ire for committing 20 penalties against Buffalo, the Jets were flagged 10 more times in the 38-13 loss to Tennessee. And this time the penalties were like gasoline poured on a fire of turnovers created by rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
“Last week I said we are not going to win games if we keep having penalties, so I guess we’ll be doing push-ups this week,” Wilkerson said, referring to the penalty Ryan imposed on his players for flagged infractions.
As for Smith, who had a horrendous day with two interceptions and two fumbles lost, contributing directly to 28 of Tennessee’s points, Wilkerson shed some light on what his quarterback said to the team when he apologized for his poor play.
“I mean he is a rookie and he’s going to have ups and downs. Not to make excuses, but I know Geno is going to get better and so are we, collectively, as a team,” Wilkerson said. “He said he has to take care of the ball, turnovers. We can’t win the game if we turn the ball over and he just said he’s going to get that corrected.”
Wilkerson said as hard as Smith is taking his poor performance, some of the onus has to fall on the Jets defense, because it simply is not creating turnovers. While it’s true Smith has given the defense several short fields to work against this season, the defense hasn’t really returned the favor for the offense.
“That’s something we definitely got to get better at,” Wilkerson said. “It’s just a mentality. We have to get after the ball carrier, strip attempts and get pickoffs, INTs, something we have to get better at.”
Wilkerson also took issue with the defense’s problems on third down. The Jets entered last Sunday’s game with the second-lowest third-down conversion percentage against in the NFL, but struggled mightily, allowing the Titans to convert 10 of 18 chances.
“If we want to win games we have to get off the field on third downs and get the ball back to the offense. We didn’t do that Sunday. Those guys made plays and we didn’t,” Wilkerson said.
The Jets have split their first four games and some actually think they’ve played better than expectations. However, Wilkerson said he saw some missed opportunities over the first quarter of the season and continues to view the Jets as a major work in progress.
“Those two losses we made some mistakes. We correct those mistakes we should have more wins than losses,” Wilkerson said.
As for what the Jets are and can be going forward, Wilkerson said anyone thinking beyond next week’s game, at Atlanta on Monday Night Football, is making a big mistake.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves. At the end of the day it is a long season. We want to make sure we are winning and we still haven’t played our best ball in all three phases — offense, defense, special teams. So we just have to make sure we have our best games and everyone is on the same page, all three phases are working for us,” Wilkerson said.
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