It may have been overlooked by the disastrous afternoon of cornerback Buster Skrine and the fact that the New York Jets squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, but there was one bright spot during the gut-wrenching defeat. Both Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams finally were impactful after sluggish starts to the 2017 campaign.
In years past, Wilkerson has been counted on for the type of performance he posted Sunday. But the 2017 season has been his worst after a disappointing 2016 campaign.
Wilkerson still has yet to record a sack, but he recorded two quarterback hits, one hurry and two run stops Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. He also intercepted a pass by Jay Cutler after Jamal Adams tipped the pass straight up into the air.
— New York Jet Fuel (@NewYorkJetFuel) October 22, 2017
“I thought [Wilkerson] played a good ball game,” coach Todd Bowles said on a Monday conference call. “He was active, he got some quarterback hits, he got the interception obviously, he was good in the run game. He hustled and played with a lot of heart.”
Perhaps Bowles was referencing a 3rd-and-18 play in the first half when Wilkerson wrapped up Jay Ajayi from behind just before he could reach the first-down marker.
— New York Jet Fuel (@NewYorkJetFuel) October 23, 2017
Meanwhile, Williams led the team with three quarterback hits to go along with one hurry and one run stop. While Williams has been more productive than Wilkerson to open the season, he still has been held without a sack. Although New York only got two as a team, Williams was pleased with the team’s ability to bother Cutler and Matt Moore throughout the game.
“I think we did a pretty good job of disrupting the quarterback,” Williams said. He also acknowledged that the defense was able to knock Miami starter Jay Cutler out of the game because of its ability to pressure and hit the veteran.
New York’s front seven was able to slow down Jay Ajayi for the second straight meeting despite struggling mightily against the run throughout the first half of the season. Ajayi had 23 carries for 51 yards after he had just 11 attempts for 16 yards in his previous meeting with the Jets this year.
Perhaps the performance was enough to jumpstart the underperforming unit, which has given up the fifth-most rushing yards per game in the NFL. Still, New York will need to cut down on penalties and learn how to play with a lead before it can boast a quality defensive unit.