Rex Ryan praises Muhammad Wilkerson

Jets defenders David Harris and Muhammad Wilkerson celebrate

Jets defenders David Harris and Muhammad Wilkerson celebrate a sack against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 2, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan, as you would expect, praised his defense again Monday after the Jets' 17-10 win Sunday in Jacksonville. He had special praise for emerging lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who had one sack and three tackles.

"Muhammad Wilkerson, I promise you he gets a vote for Pro Bowl from Jacksonville," Ryan said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. Dominant performance from Mo. We seem like we say it each week. Clearly, he's the guy we talked about at the beginning of the year."

Ryan was pleased with the second-year Wilkerson and rookie Quinton Coples, who also had a sack Sunday. (Ryan called Coples "country strong.")

The coach is looking for better play from second-year lineman Kenrick Ellis, who has been slow to return to form after a knee injury.

"I'm really encouraged," Ryan said. "You have Mo playing at an unbelievable level, Pro Bowl level. You've got this young man with that kind of ability and I see him getting better each week. We have to get Kenrick Ellis back to that level . . . Those should be three guys we can count on for several years."

Wilkerson, a 2011 first-round pick (30th overall) who has four sacks this season after getting three last year, wasn't hearing any talk about a trip to Hawaii.

Asked about Ryan's words, Wilkerson said: "I give the credit to him. I'm proud to be a Jet. They brought me here and I'm going to continue to play like a Jet and just do the best I can for the defense."

But Ryan, who stayed away from playoff guarantees or anything of that sort, saved his braggadocio for Wilkerson's impact against Jacksonville.

"For an interior lineman, he's just doing an incredible job," Ryan said. "Statistically, he had one sack, but he beat his guy over and over and over. Backs were having to pick him up. It's rare that you have an interior lineman get the attention from the backs. Usually that's assigned to an outside edge rusher, but the backs were helping on Mo time and time again. It just shows you what the teams are thinking about this guy. What a performance by him."

There was only one thing Wilkerson would have changed about that performance: a face-mask penalty called on him in the fourth quarter. The penalty actually was committed by Coples (it later was changed on the official scoresheet).

"I had to bust his chops," Wilkerson said. "That's the second one."

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