Muhammad Wilkerson's stat sheet speaks for itself. And the Jets' third-year lineman was honest Tuesday when asked, during his weekly segment on WFAN, if he considers himself the NFL's best defensive player.
"I do, I do,'' said Wilkerson, 24. "I feel like I'm one of the top guys in this league as a defensive player.
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"I know there are many other guys out there, but the credit goes to those other guys that I play with, those guys that I'm down in the trenches with. Just the whole defense and the whole team. It's not just myself, I feed off my teammates in the way that they work hard and get things going.''
Darrelle Revis once was the Jets' defensive star, but Wilkerson has emerged as the leader of their formidable front seven and a Pro Bowl contender.
His career-high eight sacks equal his combined total the past two seasons, and he has 31 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in nine games. Rookie tackle Sheldon Richardson (41 tackles) and improved second-year nose tackle Damon Harrison (32 tackles, one sack) have helped Wilkerson. But as defensive line coach Karl Dunbar said this season, "The strength of the wolf is the pack . . . And I think Mo is our wolf.''
At the end of last season, Rex Ryan believed Wilkerson would be Pro Bowl-bound. Instead, Antonio Cromartie and LaRon Landry were the only Jets represented in Hawaii. But now Wilkerson has even better stats and the Jets boast the NFL's top run defense, allowing only 73.8 rushing yards a game.
Ryan has learned his lesson this season. After the impressive win over the Saints Nov. 3, he let it slip that "we may have the best defensive player in the league right now.''
He was talking about Wilkerson, who extended his streak of games with a sack to five. But when asked the next day to expound on the 6-5, 315-pounder being the best defensive player in the league, Ryan played coy.
"I don't know. He's pretty good. But I'm not supposed to say that,'' he joked. "He's a heck of a football player. There is no question about that. He's consistent. He plays the run, pass, he's smart. I mean, you see it all from him.''
Woody Johnson had no intentions of keeping Revis a Jet in 2013, but the owner offered support for his former All-Pro cornerback Tuesday. A day after Revis called out "bitter'' Jets fans who have sent him death threats and constant vitriolic messages on Twitter, Johnson called the social-media behavior "certainly inappropriate.''
At a Super Bowl event in Manhattan, Johnson said, "I don't think anybody should make those kinds of threats to anybody for any reason. It's not good social conduct. Don't do it.''
S Rontez Miles cleared waivers and could wind up on the Jets' practice squad again.