Muhammad Wilkerson was a scapegoat of a lot of criticism early in the 2017 season, as the former first-round pick defensive end had failed to record a sack through the first seven games of the year.
There may be a reason for the sixth-year pro’s early struggles, though: During general manager Mike Maccagnan’s midseason press conference, it was revealed that Wilkerson has been playing with a broken small toe.
While he has been battling the injury, Wilkerson has still re-emerged onto the scene with three consecutive solid games against the Dolphins, Falcons and Bills, during which he showed glimpses of his 2015 Pro Bowl form. The 28-year-old recorded two sacks and an interception over that three-game span, and earned at least an 83.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in each game.
According to John Gatta of PFF, Wilkerson has had more pressures (nine in 86 pass rush snaps) in the last three games than in the first six combined (eight in 167 pass rush snaps).
Despite having to deal with the toe injury, as well as a lingering back injury, Wilkerson earned praise from head coach Todd Bowles after last week’s victory over Buffalo.
“He studies and he understands what the game plan is and what he has to do once he gets out there in walkthrough and everything else,” Bowles said on Friday. “The biggest is just making sure he stays in shape and obviously eating right and getting his treatment, so that’s the biggest part of it. At some point, you hope that gets better, and it looks like it’s getting better, hopefully. That’s the biggest challenge of it.”