ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - How badly hurt is Muhammad Wilkerson?
The Jets lost one of their biggest defensive stars in the third quarter when Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson had to be helped off the field with a broken right leg after his foot was twisted and caught underneath a pile of players.
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Unable to put weight on his foot and with tears in his eyes, he was carted from the Jets’ sideline to the locker room. Wilkerson, who had a career-best 12 sacks, did not speak with the media after the game but was spotted leaving on crutches. He will need to undergo surgery at some point, coach Todd Bowles said.
The timing of the injury is especially devastating for the fifth-year lineman because he’s been seeking a long-term contract extension since last year. He is in the final year of his rookie deal, which paid him $6.969 million this season. Contract talks between the Jets and his agent stalled and negotiations were shelved during the season. The Jets could choose to place the franchise tag on him for next season.
What’s the future of the Jets’ defensive line?
That’s what Sheldon Richardson would like to know.
Not only is Wilkerson heading into free agency, but the long-term future of run-stuffing nose tackle Damon Harrison is uncertain. After the Jets fell short of the playoffs with yesterday’s loss, Richardson couldn’t help but think about potentially being without his “brothers.”
“I’m going to miss this team,” he said, sounding resigned to a future without Wilkerson or Harrison. “Just can’t keep everybody on this defensive line. It’s just not realistic. Guys outplayed their contracts.”
Harrison also is seeking a big payday after signing his restricted free-agency tender offer ($2.356 million) for 2015. Harrison, who had eight tackles yesterday, finished with 72 tackles and a half-sack.
“I’m going to miss them,” said Richardson, who served a four-game suspension to start the season and could face further league punishment after an offseason arrest following a high-speed chase. “[We] grew up together, pretty much, in the league. They helped me through a hard time in my life, so it’s going to be tough.”
Where was Chris Ivory?
The Jets’ No. 1 running back cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his six-year career, but his absence on the field, in favor of third-stringer Stevan Ridley, was somewhat curious.
Ivory, who had been nursing a knee injury, had six carries for 81 yards, including a 58-yarder. He finished with 1,070 rushing yards and seven TDs.
Ridley had nine carries for 29 yards.
Asked about using him on first and second downs, Bowles cited Ivory’s health and their game plan. “We tried to give Ivory] a break a little too because he wasn’t 100 percent, but he was good enough to play,” he said. “It wasn’t so much Ridley, it was more about run-pass situations than certain personnel packages. Ridley didn’t really bring anything different to take Ivory out. It was just the situation with the wind and run-pass situation.”
Complicating matters: Bilal Powell (ankle) was inactive. During the Jets’ five-game winning streak, he ran for 162 yards and a TD and had 27 catches for 232 yards and a score.
What was Bowles’ reaction to the penalties?
The Jets racked up six penalties for 41 yards. Two of the most costly were courtesy of Leonard Williams (a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct flag for throwing punches) and Richardson (a 5-yard neutral-zone infraction after jumping offside on fourth-and-3 at the Jets’ 13).
“They’re mistakes that can’t happen,” Bowles said.
As for a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty, the coach said: “Just some communication things.”
Why didn’t Bowles call timeout at the end of the first half?
“We wouldn’t have had enough time,” he said. “They could have went for it on fourth-and-2. We didn’t want to give them a chance to think about it.”