Muhammad Wilkerson: The Engine to Rex Ryan’s Defense

Muhammad Wilkerson, like many players on the Jets defense, has the skill set to excel in many different roles. He is regarded as a 3-4 defensive end, but Rex Ryan lines up Wilkerson all over the defensive line. Let’s jump into the film room and take a look.

Before I start, let me display a small “key” that will help as you read along. First off, the defensive line key and terminology (for where players line up):

(trojan football analysis)

The twenty four year old New Jersey local is not only the best player on the team, but the face of the franchise. According to PFF, Wilkerson had 32 quarterback hurries last year to go with 11 sacks and nine quarterback hits. He is the anchor to Rex Ryan’s game plans and is currently a driving force behind one of the best defensive lines in the league. So, what does Wilkerson exactly do?

Mo is the type of dominant player that does not always “light up” the stat sheet. He draws double teams, forces the opposition to run away from him, and stays on the field in any defensive package.

Wilkerson lined up at the nine tech:

Although Wilkerson is regarded as a “5 tech” player, this was one of my favorite plays from him last year. Not many 315 pounders in the NFL have quick feet that match an elusive swim move like Wilkerson does. Tony Gonzalez does not “chip” Wilkerson, leaving him one on one with tackle Jeremy Trueblood.

Wilkerson swims inside, while Legar Douzable does an excellent job taking the right guard and center out of the play. A last ditch effort by the right guard forces Wilkerson a half foot outside, but his long reach swats the ball from Matt Ryan’s grip. This turnover was a large deciding factor in the Jets Monday night victory in Atlanta.

Wilkerson lined up at the three tech:

Buffalo right guard Colin Brown did not stand a chance here. Wilkerson goes right at his outside shoulder, pushes him aside, and takes down quarterback EJ Manuel. Interior pressure as quick as this is one the NFL’s most dangerous weapons versus the pass, as most passer’s are not fast enough to elude it.

Wilkerson lined up at the zero tech:

This may be the most interesting alignment of them all. The Jets have one of the best zero technique run stoppers in the NFL in Damon Harrison. In this linebacker heavy package, Rex has Wilkerson line up in the zero tech, where he flourishes. He breaks right through the center (who shifted left) and the right guard, stopping the ball carrier short of the first down marker.

Harrison is a space eater. He is nearly impossible to move, but he does not have as light feet as Wilkerson, who completely shuts down the outside run on this play.

Wilkerson lined up at the five tech:

This is what Wilkerson is notorious for, the five technique. With no tight end on his side, he lines up towards left tackle Nate Solder’s outside shoulder. He stutter steps outside, then swims inside. There is no running back or guard available to help, allowing Wilkerson in the pocket in the blink of an eye. Brady goes down for the sack, one of Wilkerson’s eleven in 2013.


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