Now that’s Mo like it.
Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who was benched for the first quarter last week because of an unspecified rules violation, had three of the Jets’ five sacks of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota in a 30-8 victory over the Titans on SUnday at MetLife Stadium.
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The Jets haven’t revealed exactly why Wilkerson had to take a seat for the first 15 minutes of the overtime win over the Giants on Dec. 6. But the best way to get out of the doghouse is to put the opposing quarterback on his back as many times as possible.
“He had a great game,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He came off the ball. He had three sacks. He missed one or two or else he would have had more. He came out with a lot of energy and set the tone.”
Wilkerson has a career-high 12 sacks two years after recording 10 1⁄2. He is a potential free agent after the season, although the Jets might choose to use this franchise tag on him.
Wilkerson’s contract status is a recurring source of angst for Jets fans. Former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, now an analyst for NFL Network, tweeted during the game: “They will regret not locking him up long term prior to start of season.”
Safety Calvin Pryor, asked about the prospect of some team ponying up a lot of dough for Wilkerson in the offseason, said: “I’m hoping it’s us.”
So the consensus in and out of the Jets’ locker room is that Wilkerson is going to get paid, especially if he continues to play the way he did Sunday.
As for the Jets, they would like him to keep playing well and will tackle the headache of how to compensate him for next year and beyond when they have to.
“His season is not measured on sacks,” Bowles said. “Mo has been doing a lot of things well.”
He wasn’t the only one who did Sunday. Demario Davis and Leonard Williams also sacked Mariota, who was 21-for-39 for 274 yards and one interception.
“I think the game ball goes to the defensive line,” said Darrelle Revis, who returned after missing two games with a concussion. “They did a great job. They stayed in their rush lanes throughout the course of the game. One of the big things that we emphasized was that he could scramble with his legs.”
Mariota did make a play with his legs, but it wasn’t as a rusher. With the Jets leading 27-0 in the third quarter, Mariota split out wide and caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from running back Antonio Andrews for the Titans’ only score. Pryor fell down in coverage.
“He’s a well-rounded athlete,” Andrews said of Mariota. “He can catch, throw and everything in between.”
Other than that trick play, the Jets were stout on defense.
“Coach told us to come out with energy and play fast,” Wilkerson said. “Start out fast, and we did that. Got a great win. All three phases did their job and made plays.”