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-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Muhammad Wilkerson sacks New Orleans QB Drew Brees. (Image Source: Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)
With Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison the Jets appear set along the defensive line. They are talented and they are young: Harrison is 25, Wilkerson 24 and Richardson 23. They have prototypical size and are a very athletic and disruptive bunch for a 3-4 defensive line.
In his third season as a pro, Wilkerson really came into his own as an impact player. Even though he didn’t get an official invite to Hawaii, the Temple product had a Pro-Bowl caliber campaign. The 315-pounder has ideal bulk and length to man the five-technique position.
With 10.5 sacks, Wilkerson was New York’s top pass rusher. He also added six tackles for loss among his 64 stops. Opposing teams need to account for Wilkerson, often with double teams, or he can take over a game. That’s why New York should do all they can to lock him up before he enters the final season of his rookie contract.
Opposite Wilkerson is another first-round draft pick in Missouri man Richardson. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after recording 77 tackles to lead the defensive line, including an impressive 12 for loss against the run. Richardson added 3.5 sacks and his best pass rushing years are ahead of him. What makes him so tough to block one-on-one is his electric quickness and first step.
While the Jets invested a pair of first round picks to select Wilkerson and Richardson, they picked up Harrison as an undrafted free agent and the small school product established himself as a starter in his second season. At 350 pounds he’s exactly the kind of nose tackle head coach Rex Ryan covets. Not just a space eater, Harrison can makes plays too (66 tackles, 7 TFLs). Former third-round pick Kenrick Ellis provides depth behind Harrison.
The only question mark the team has on the defensive line is depth at the end position. Last year they picked up Leger Douzable, who was solid coming off the bench giving the Jets about 15 snaps per game. He’s the type of high-energy veteran backup the Jets would love to have behind Richardson and Wilkerson again.
General manager John Idzik has a decision to make on Douzable, who is going to be a free agent. Depth is critical in the NFL, but considering some of the holes the Jets have at other positions, depth is also a luxury. So, if they can keep Douzable at a bargain basement price he’ll be back in Gang Green in 2014, otherwise they will probably look for a backup through free agency. Look for the Jets to add a veteran player or two with experience, who can contribute if given the opportunity to play maximum effort on 10 to 20 snaps per game.
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.
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