NEW YORK (WFAN) — It’s fair to say the Jets’ defense doesn’t always live up to the hype. Muhammad Wilkerson, arguably the team’s best player up front, agrees.
In fact, the big defensive end told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts during his weekly spot on WFAN on Tuesday that despite what the statistics say, the Jets’ are coming up small when it matters.
Quarterback Geno Smith has received the bulk of the blame for Gang Green’s 1-3 start, which includes the current three-game losing streak, but there’s no question that the defense, which is somehow ranked third in total defense in the NFL, has faltered during key stretches.
“Like (defensive coordinator Dennis) Thurman said in our meeting room, as good as the stats and everything is showing and how we’re ranked, we have to show it on the field. We have to correct that. It’s that simple,” Wilkerson said. “We have to correct the mental mistakes, the penalties, everything we’re doing out there to hurt ourselves, that are making us lose these games. We gotta fix that now.”
The Jets have given up scoring drives of 97, 80 and 90 yards over the last three weeks and that doesn’t include the 80-yard touchdown pass Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw back in Week 2, or the 59-yarder Detroit’s Matthew Stafford tossed during the 24-17 loss on Sunday.
Wilkerson says enough’s enough.
“We’re just hurting ourselves with miscommunication and mistakes. We control that. It’s not the coaches. It’s not anybody, but us,” Wilkerson said. “Once we get these mistakes corrected and week in and week out we’re not making these mistakes, we will get better.”
Head coach Rex Ryan is known for his elaborate schemes that disrupt the flow of the opposition’s offense, but his team has struggled to force turnovers. The Jets have just two in four games, including zero interceptions. That statistic seems to suggest those who have criticized general manager John Idzik for not addressing glaring needs in the secondary have been, indeed, correct.
“Guys have to get in their spots to make a play,” Wilkerson said. “When the ball is in the air, if our guy is there, it’s gotta be ours.”
With Sunday’s game at San Diego the Jets begin a brutal stretch against traditionally strong opponents. They will host the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos next week and then play on Thursday night at New England the week after.
The Chargers (3-1) lead the AFC West and sport a quarterback in Philip Rivers who is playing the best football of his life. The 11-year veteran has completed 70 percent of his throws for 1,155 yards, nine TDs and just one interception this season.
Wilkerson said he expects things to change in a hurry. If not, the season could be lost before it really begins.
“We still got a lot of games ahead of us. You can’t break and fold right now,’ Wilkerson said. “We need to stick together and try to get better and turn this thing around.”
Wilkerson spoke about several other topics, including the criticism being thrown at second-year quarterback Smith. To hear his complete interview, please click on the audio link below.