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Hard-Nosed Wilkerson Has That Fighting Spirit

Posted by Andrew LeRay on August 31, 2011 – 2:40 pm

In Monday night’s tilt against the Giants, rookie defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson showed Jets fans what his teammates have known for some time. The 6’4”, 315-pounder is one tough cookie, and although he has yet to play his first professional regular season game, he has proven his mettle and shown he belongs.

In the third quarter, with the Jets leading, 7-3, an otherwise nondescript 7-yard completion by the Giants turned into a slugfest. Wilkerson and Giants RB Brandon Jacobs were tangled up when Jacobs threw a punch at the rookie. Wilkerson retaliated and both were promptly ejected from the game.

“He’s a very competitive guy that’s willing to stick his nose in there,” said S Jim Leonhard. “It was a hard-nosed football play, and it ended up where it ended up, which is unfortunate. But you like to see that from young guys. He’s going to be an aggressive player for us.”

Wilkerson, a Linden, N.J., native, acknowledged he might have been better served by not involving himself with Jacobs, but he wouldn’t go so far as to apologize for what transpired between the two.

“Was it a smart move? No. Do I regret it? No,” Wilkerson told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. “It’s football and I’m not going to let anyone take advantage of me.”

Coming off a standout junior season at Temple, Wilkerson started in all 12 games for the Owls, making 9.5 sacks, 70 tackles in all and 13 tackles for loss, and forced two fumbles.

Even though the Jets players could not use the team facilities for virtually the entire offseason, head coach Rex Ryan was able to get a playbook to Wilkerson on the day the lockout was lifted, and then the rookie found two particular teammates to be especially helpful in his transition to the pro game.

“I was looking at it every day,” said Wilkerson. “I also met up with Sione [Pouha] and [Mike] DeVito, and the rest of the defensive line got together one week when Mark [Sanchez] brought some guys out west. That’s what really helped me make such a smooth transition into camp.”

Once Wilkerson arrived at training camp, his skills were front and center. He has above-average agility for a lineman his size, and combined with his strength, he makes for a difficult matchup.

“I think I’ve had a good preseason,” he said. “I just wanted to come in and work week in and week out. I’ve improved from the first game, and I want to keep doing that throughout the season.”

Through three preseason games, Wilkerson has recorded six total tackles in limited playing time. He’ll look to improve further in the preseason finale against Philadelphia at MetLife Stadium. Only a day removed from the Giants game, Ryan said the rookies will be on center stage come Thursday night.

Wilkerson, in all his youthful exuberance, is not concerned with the short turnaround.

“It’s kind of just like practice,” he said. “You practice every day with pads. It’s kind of going to be the same. It’s not like I’m not looking forward to it. I’m ready to go, no matter when, no matter where.”

Wilkerson has been a pro football player for only a short while but already exudes a veteran grit. This comes as no surprise to Ryan, who thinks some of his toughness may be a result of where he grew up.

“I don’t think he’s intimidated by anything,” said Ryan earlier this month. “He’s a tough New Jersey kid. It’s kind of neat when you get a New Jersey guy. New York, New Jersey, we get our own kind of kids here.”

After making a statement on Monday night, Ryan and the rest of the Jets are all in this Jersey guy’s corner.

A Decade of “Hard Knocks”

Ten years after the debut of the groundbreaking NFL Films and HBO Sports collaboration and a year after the Jets were the stars of the show, HBO is ready to air “Hard Knocks: A Decade of NFL Training Camps.” The new show debuts tonight from 10-11:30 p.m. ET/PT exclusively on HBO.

In addition to revisiting memorable moments of the featured teams — Baltimore, Dallas (twice), Kansas City, Cincinnati and the Jets — this special includes new interviews with Rex Ryan and other Hard Knocks veterans.

You can also see the special Thursday at 4:05 a.m. on HBO and at 9 a.m. on HBO2 and at other times on the two HBO networks through Sept. 21.

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Posted in Andrew LeRay, Randy Lange | 39 Comments »

39 Responses to “Hard-Nosed Wilkerson Has That Fighting Spirit”

  1. By IRA on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    There were two ways to look at what happened. Marty Lyons said on the radio he felt it was stupid and it cost Wilkerson some valuable reps. Hard to argue that point but i lean more towards Wilkerson standing his ground and fighting back. It was a good lesson learned and hope it doesn’t happen again.

  2. By Gabriel on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    I was really proud of Wilkerson for standing up for himself, I hope he makes a positive impact for us this season. Randy, what has to happen for a player to be ejected from a game? is it just simply throwing punches or what? thank you

  3. By Randy Lange on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    Gabriel, the NFL’s official playing rules delineate five ways for a player to get disqualified: (a) flagrant striking, kneeing or kicking an opponent; (b) flagrant roughing of a kicker, passer or any other opponent; (c) a palpably unfair act; (d) flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct by players on non-players; and (e) repeat violation of a suspended-player rule (such as a repeat for not correcting illegal equipment).

  4. By scjoe on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    I hope that the addition of Wilkerson allows the front 3 to tie up blockers more successfully then last season. That will equate to more sacks if they do. Once again, before anyone jumps on me and says “it is only preseason, blah, blah) It was also pre season for the Giants. But a blind guy could see the difference in the Giants pass rush compared to the Jets. Yes, they had no sacks, we had 2. But Sanchez had no time to throw and that is more important then sacks. Factor in the Giants outgained the Jets by nearly 3-1 in that first half and you will also be of the opinion that the 17-3 score was misleading. Bottom line, a lot falls on Wilk and the front 3

  5. By TONY GARCIA on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    Like the way the 2nd string played,happy with depth in certain areas.

  6. By davetharave on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    If that was the regular season game and occurred early you’d have to say big plus for the Jets . . Jacobs is a huge offensive threat for the G-men and we have a lot of big defensive linemen to fill the gap. That trade-off definitely would tip in the Jets favor.

  7. By scjoe on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    64, I think you are getting way,WAY, ahead of yourself when you suggest McElroy will be pushing MS any time soon, and that is coming from a guy who never was high on MS to begin with. I do agree that MS needs “someone” to push him, I am just not sure that guy is on the roster yet. Spicer, I know you will not want to hear this, but the Jets absolutely have the offensive weapons and the O- line to compare with anybody, not only NE, Indy and GB (except for the QB position that is) No one can tell me that if Peyton or Brady were running this offense that it would not be in the top 3 with out a doubt. Foolish, yes, but just making a point.

  8. By Gabriel on Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    IRA, i agree that it was a good lesson learned and Rex Ryan understands WIlkerson was just defending himself but acknowledges he needs to control is emotions better though. Randy, thank you for that now I know the rules.

  9. By Jimmer on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Some team will have that noted in their books about him. They’ll send in some total scrub to fight him and get the ejections. I just hope the coaches and vets are letting him know that.

  10. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Doesn’t sound like Rex was too concerned about what Wilkerson did, as long as he learns from it. I gotta go with the view that some guys on the D probably liked what they saw, even if they know it shouldn’t be encouraged. Especially after yrs of playing with Gholston.

  11. By Danny on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe, The Jets and Giants have different defensive philosophies. Rex emphasizes coverage and simulated pressure in hopes to confuse QB’s into making bad decisions that lead into turnovers. Lack of turnovers have been the reason why our defense hasn’t been the dominate force that we all expect. Even though we have finished 1st and 3rd in total yards allowed the last two years. Stop worrying about other defensive philosophies and start buying into what REX believes if you want to do right by the Jets. personally I’d rather have more turnovers then sacks because ultimately teams that win the turnover battle win ball games. we are in the win business not the business to have the most sacks.

  12. By Jimmer on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    I’m excited to see McElroy play a near full game. His arm ain’t that great, but he can make a defense think he’s going somewhere he has no intention of throwing to. This kid has always been a winner, not sure if he’s the NFL type winner, but he does have something Sanchez doesn’t, the ability to look off defenders.

  13. By john on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    i agree with Tony . i like the depth i see on the D . i think there has been a good infusion of youth and there’s a nice mix of youth and veterans over all on the team .

  14. By Jack on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Now Mo Wilkerson just need to show that he can rush the qb, with he hasn’t yet to do. I didn’t like the pick but I hope that Wilkerson can show me he not another Gholston. I would like to see DT, Kenrick Ellis get the start in the last Pre-season went the jets take on the Eagles. I did like this pick just hope Ellis turn out to be a good player.

  15. By IRA on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe, Very well put. I think pace is going to finally have a break out year and put up about 8-10 sacks. They did flush Manning out of the pocket a few times and made him hurry some throws. That has to be added into the picture. Its not all about the total #’s on sacks its getting constant pressure on passing plays.

  16. By dave on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Hopefully Wilkerson can learn how to get the other guy to flagrantly punch him, and be able to restraint himself enough no not retaliate. Imagine if that was a real game, and he just got Brandon Jacobs yanked? Either way, after Gholston, it is nice to see someone in there with some toughness and heart.

    Anyway, I love our unsung group up front with Sione, devito, wilk, ropati, MTV and Kendrick. Our D will be nasty.

    This season is about Sanchez, and his ability to take the next step. The rest of the team is there, no doubt about it.

  17. By IRA on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    L Maroney is a free agent.Depending on what his story is it might be a good idea to bring him in for a workout. Any thoughts?

  18. By rob on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Not only can wilkerson not play at this level, he has shown that he isnt very bright as well. Three games and he hasnt been within arms length of a ball carrier or quarterback. At least gholston was good in the gym! The Jets need to take a very hard look at their scouting team. Its really subpar.

  19. By russ on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Wilkerson just laugh at other players anger..it means he is losing…

  20. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Danny, no one buys into Rex’c system more then I do, but at the same time you have to go by what you see. I stated in my post that pressuring the QB and forcing him to throw before he is ready is even more important then the sacks, the Giants did that, the Jets did not. As for the turnovers or lack of turn overs, they speak for them self. That needs to pick up this year.I know each have different defensive philosophy’s based on their personal, but you need to put pressure on the QB no matter which philosophy you choose to adhere to.We all see the difference in Brady when he is pressured and when he is not. That tells you all you need to know.

  21. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    GaryC. The NY Jets offense of the 80s may have been significantly better then the one we have today, problem is we don’t have Toon, Walker, McNeil, Hector, and O’Brien in their prime today. The 85 Bears D was significantly better then our D we have today too. See where I am going with this? My point, and I will stand behind it is, most times, the QB dictates what the final product will look like when it is all said and done. See Manning, Brady, Brees, Rivers and Rogers. They all seem to get it done no matter who the supporting cast may be, and how often it changes.

  22. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe, here’s a non-neurotic, non-“Same Old Jet Fan” view: Someone will be pushing Sanchez if he doesn’t step up on a few levels before his 5-yr deal is up, as dave says. That someone won’t be Brunell or any other vet backup. It will be another young guy with potential, like McElroy, especially if that young guy looks good, as McElroy does. As Jimmer points out and as I and others have said, in some ways McElroy looks way ahead of where MS did at this point of his first yr. Danny, great point about turnovers, the lack of them has severely restricted our D. As I’ve said before, I’m astounded at the number of easy INTs our DBs drop, even allegedly sure-handed ones like Revis and Leonhard.

  23. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Ira, I noticed that about Maroney the other day and was briefly tempted. But I think I’d rather see McKnight, Powell, Conner, and even Jennings carry the ball. We’ll never have our own home-groomed stars if we don’t…groom our own stars.

  24. By Tom Spicer on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe, You are right Mark does have to improve on his completion percentage & throw more TD’S this year BIG TIME. I am not to worried about the picks as much I dont think (including playoffs) 14 picks in 18 games last year is bad. I am okay with that but 20 total TD’S in no good this year anything less than 57% 3,750 yards & 24 TD’S is unacceptable & year 4 anything less than 60% 4,000 yards & 28 TD’S is unacceptable as well. I say if he cant do the above dont even bring him back for year 5 cause he is not the guy.

  25. By jrich1 on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Add the name of Sanchez to that list of QB s who get it done whatever else happens. 19 reg season wins in two seasons-4 playoff wins (on the road no less)It took all of those other guys years to win big–most of them took years to have above 500 seasons–Why does Sanchez have to win ths SB in his third yesr ??Wins s the only way to judge a QB–Comp percentage-third down conversion percentage and the rest of those stats are just window dressing–I’ll take MS over any young QB period–

  26. By kw65Fan on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe…don’t know what game you were watching but Manning only completed 50% of his passes and threw 2 interceptions after being terrorized with a hurry up pass. I think the defense did there job pretty good. bend…but did not break in all facets of the first half. lets see…they gave up 3 points…take that anytime …all the time.

  27. By GaryC on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    scjoe, get your drift,you are saying if sanchez was in his prime and a top quarterback the offense would be much better,but I could say that about the lions with stafford,the ravens with flacco.Marino was the rare exception to come in his rookie year and do great.If sanchez isn’t progressing fast enough where does the onus lye.Is it shotty or maybe rex needs to think about his offense a little more than his defense.

  28. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Ira, I happen to believe Maroney would have a chance to step right up to the head of the class, but I don’t think we will ever get the opportunity to know that for sure. Rex believes in Greene and LT followed by the supporting cast. I liked Maroney when he was at his best in NE. Just my opinion.

  29. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    GaryC. The point I tried to make a few stories ago was that the problem in the Jets offense right now as we speak is either in the QB position “or” the OC. I say that because as I look around the rest of the offense I really do not see any extremely weak links. Now, in answer to your question, I am not even sure that when MS is in his “prime” that this offense will be a top five. That remains to be seen. He definitely needs to step it up before we can say that. As for Stafford? If he stays healthy this year…Watch Out! I honestly believe he has the “it”

  30. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    kw65. As I said, the 3pts allowed was misleading. It had just as much to do with the Giants ineptness then anything else. I am not one to buy in to a defense that “bends’ because most times when it bends enough it breaks! And I am not saying that the Jets D fits that criteria either, what I am saying, based on that game is the Giants D put much more pressure on MS then the Jets did on Eli. Sure, there were moments, but generally speaking it was the Giants applying the pressure, the first team anyway.

  31. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    spicer, that is all I am trying to say. That is all I have ever tried to say. Those stats you posted should be attainable. I am not saying they would be great, but they would definitely go a long way in improving this offense and making it a top ten at least. Offensive stats and rankings revolve around the QB. That is a given. The stats the past couple of years have been average at best. However, I am starting to take a closer look at Shotty and his play calling, one in which I have given the benefit of the doubt to up until now. So, lets see where it all goes.

  32. By Steve on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    I’ve been a Jet fan since their inception, and I sometimes have to laugh at some of the opinions on this blog. Since the Jets won the super bowl, they’ve been in four afc championship games and lost them all. Now, for all of you MS haters, at least he got to two of them which gives him more appearances in afc championship games than any other qb in Jets history! So, quit living in the past, because it wasn’t as great as some of you think, and give MS a chance to be the qb the Jets drafted him to be.

  33. By GaryC on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    you can win a super bowl if you don’t have an elite quarterback,just look at the ravens with trent dilfer,and the panthers almost won with delhomme.but again you need to be dominant in other facets of the team,the jets d is not as good as the 85 bears or the 2000 ravens,if it was the steelers wouldn’t have took the opening kickoff and marched it straight down our throats.people talk about the jets offensive line,when do they get a run of more than 10yards.they haven’t had a breakaway threat since leon washington.the jets have more chinks in the armor than people think.NO Pass Rush, No speed threat out of backfield unless mcknight developes,aging wide receivers,linebackers who can’t cover.sanchez is least of the problems.

  34. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    Steve, I have been a Jet fan since their inception as well, when you talk about opinions on this blog just remember, that is exactly what they are, “opinions” Some I agree with some I do not, that is life in the big city. No one knows for sure if MS is the guy who takes us to where we haven’t been since Joe Willie took us there. Maybe he is maybe he isn’t we will all find out eventually, meanwhile let everyone express their “opinions!” They will never become a factor in what happens on the field.

  35. By scjoe on Sep 1, 2011 | Reply

    GaryC, can’t argue with that logic, although it would be a much easier task with that elite QB. You are right though, there are other areas of the team that could be addressed besides the QB, but the same could be said with about 31 other teams as well.

  36. By Steve on Sep 2, 2011 | Reply

    I hear ya scjoe… I didn’t intend any disrespect, just giving my opinion! It’s just that sometimes you get tired of fans bashing a player instead of giving him support. Use that energy to bash the opposition…

  37. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 2, 2011 | Reply

    Obviously there are some concerns on both O and D as you say, GaryC. But it’s just as obvious that no one’s going far in the NFL these days without an elite QB. Heck, look at the teams that aren’t going far WITH an elite QB, like SD. Bringing up Dilfer and Delhomme is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for SB QBs, almost all the teams that have won the game lately had elite guys including the guy just north of us who’s won 3 of ‘em. So while I don’t deny that we have problems, if Sanchez doesn’t mature over the next couple of years he’s probably not the guy. I do agree with Steve that he’s done great compared to other Jets QB but you know what? Outside of Joe and O’Brien and to a much lesser extent Chad, that’s not saying much.

  38. By Row on Sep 3, 2011 | Reply

    Wilkerson is a non technique based phenom who can be Sue esque with the right coaching. We HAVE to find a hitting strong safety who will blow up receivers that go over the middle. I don’t care about one or two picks a season by a safety. We need hits and break-ups. It is terrible right now. Prob gonna be below average of the league vs the pass again. Go Jets!

  39. By ganggreen on Sep 7, 2011 | Reply

    i really hope they start this guy on defense. he’s big and powerful. He can’t do any worse than 3 sacks compared to previous linemen from last season right?

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