For the second year in a row, Rex Ryan has handed his first round draft pick a starting position before football activities truly get under way. Last year he named Kyle Wilson his nickel back and punt returner, this year he has named Muhammad Wilkerson his starting defensive end. We know things didn’t work out too well for Wilson last year, so why did Ryan choose the same route this year?
The Jets are still in negotiations to bring veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis back. Even though Ryan backtracked somewhat and said he would have Ellis start in name so he could keep his streak of starts going with the franchise, but still have Wilkerson take the bulk of the reps, why would Ellis come back under those terms? He is still a productive player, who dominated the New England Patriots in the playoffs last year and now might look to bolt to one of the Jets rivals to stick it to Ryan or the Jets front office if they can’t come to an agreement.
I understand the Jets want production out of their first round pick but there is no reason to hand him the job, even if you plan on starting him regardless. Without Ellis in camp, at least say he has to battle veterans Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon for reps to push the most out of him. Personally, I still think it would be smart to bring Ellis or maybe Trevor Pryce back to mentor Wilkerson and allow him to ease his way into the starting line-up. Let him start out working primarily on pass rushing downs and then gradually work into being an every down player.
I love Rex Ryan’s bravado and confidence in his draft pick, but let the guy take a few snaps before naming him a starter and simultaneously pushing away a well-respected veteran who will end up in the franchise’s Ring of Honor one day.