Muhammad Wilkerson #96 – 1,039 defensive snaps (95 percent) – 63 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 3 passes defensesCurrently the team’s best overall player, Wilkerson has developed into everything the team could have hoped for after using a first round pick on him in 2011. A nice chunk of the Jets free cap space in the coming year or so will be allocated to give Wilkerson a hefty new contract that should keep him in Green and White for the foreseeable future. In 2013, Wilkerson improved as a pass rusher but was a little more inconsistent against the run than he was in 2012, particularly down the stretch. Considering the team’s defensive line depth, I wouldn’t wager on seeing Wilkerson play 95 percent of the snaps again. It would be wiser to drop his number to somewhere in the mid to high 80s, so he is more fresh for December. Regardless, it is fair to argue that Wilkerson is currently the best 3-4 defensive end in football not named JJ Watt. Mike Tannenbaum had an ugly 2009 and 2010 draft but absolutely nailed this pick.
Sheldon Richardson #91 – 880 defensive snaps (80 percent) – 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 pass defensedThe 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Richardson’s selection initially surprised some but the tape on him at Missouri showed a versatile, athletic freak…combine that with his personality and you have a Rex Ryan dream player. Richardson met and exceeded even the most optimistic expectations as a rookie, proving to be a match-up nightmare and disruptive wrecking ball alongside Wilkerson and Damon Harrison. Maybe it is getting ahead of myself but I think Richardson will be an even better pro than Wilkerson and by the end of next season we’ll be talking about him as the best player on the team. I’d look for a jump in his sack total and a slight increase in overall reps next season, along with continued dominance against the run. And for God’s sake…KEEP HIM AWAY FROM OFFENSE! The last thing we need is him blowing his leg out on an inside handoff.
DEFENSIVE END SCALDING HOT 2014 TAKE: Both Richardson and Wilkerson play roughly 85% of the defensive snaps next season and both are either first or second team All-Pro. Richardson jumps from 3.5 sacks to 7.5. Wilkerson has his second straight 10+ sack season.