As the New York Jets prepare for what could be their worst season yet, all eyes will be on Muhammad Wilkerson to bounce back from an abysmal year.
When it comes to defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, many fans were relieved and excited when the New York Jets finally gave him a monster contract extension to keep him around for the long-term. This wasn’t that long ago where again, Wilkerson was posting some incredible numbers, was a locker room leader, and kept his name out of trouble throughout his tenure with the Jets so far.
Last year, however, tells a different story. Not only did Wilkerson regress, but it seemed that after he signed his new big contract, things started to feel a bit different. Of course, he was dealing with a broken leg injury from the season before and perhaps was rushed a bit too soon by the Jets, but that doesn’t excuse him from being late to mandatory team meetings.
Leadership is a trait that NFL teams know not many players ultimately possess. In 2016, Wilkerson totaled just 33 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and didn’t seem to put in 100 percent on every play like the football world saw in his 2015 Pro Bowl season.
The truth of the matter is it’s all or nothing for Wilkerson this upcoming season. Since the Jets are fully rebuilding and evaluating every single player on the roster, if Wilkerson once again starts to be tardy to team meetings or not be a factor on defense, this could be his last chance to be considered into the team’s long-term plans.
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Due to the way Wilkerson’s contract is structured, the Jets can easily cut him at the end of this season and not be stuck giving him more guaranteed money.
With the emergence of defensive end Leonard Williams, the Jets are in a good situation on their defensive line even if it means parting ways with Wilkerson if he doesn’t prove his worth in 2017.
Overall, it’s all on Wilkerson to silence his critics and again, live up to his potential and especially the big contract that was invested into his talents. This is it for Wilkerson since even though the Jets aren’t expected to win many football games this upcoming season, all eyes will be on players and their aspirations to put everything they got into every single play they’re a part of on the gridiron. The Jets will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on No. 96.