Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets celebrates his fourth-quarter sack against...

Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets celebrates his fourth-quarter sack against the Buffalo Bills. (Sept. 22, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Together we eat.

The words are repeated almost daily inside Karl Dunbar's meeting room, serving as a constant reminder that his players cannot win without one another.

Dunbar, in his second year as Jets defensive line coach, often steers questions about individuals back to the unit. Ask about Muhammad Wilkerson and he'll tell you about Kenrick Ellis and Sheldon Richardson. Make a comment about Damon Harrison's improved play and Dunbar will remind you that Quinton Coples is a star in the making.

Wilkerson, who already is garnering well-deserved Pro Bowl talk, demands double-teams. But during a recent sitdown with Newsday, Dunbar was quick to point out: "They can't double-team everybody."

More impressive than the unbridled passion that permeates through the line is the unit's production. The Jets boast the No. 4 overall defense in the NFL, thanks in large part to Dunbar's group. The team ranks third in the league with 24 sacks, behind only Kansas City (35) and Baltimore (25).

In 2012, the Jets were 25th with 30 sacks.

Wilkerson, who turned 24 yesterday, is one of the main reasons for the unit's success. The third-year defensive end has already eclipsed his 2012 sack total (five) with six, including one in each of the past three games. Meanwhile, rookie defensive tackle Richardson is tied for second in the NFL with 35 combined tackles -- more than Houston's J.J. Watt (34), Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap (31) and the Giants' Justin Tuck (28).

The bold determination, brashness and athleticism of the Jets' defensive line have football people talking. After seven games, the unit has become a formidable foe in 2013 -- a lesson future Hall of Famer Tom Brady learned the hard way in Weeks 2 and 7.

"Give respect to Brady, man," said Richardson, 22, after the Jets' stunning 30-27 overtime victory over the Patriots on Sunday. "He's a great quarterback, he's everything he's hyped up to be. It's just when you put pressure on his face, man, it's a little different."

In both meetings against the Jets, Brady completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He also threw only one touchdown -- while throwing a pick-six this past Sunday - and was sacked five times total. Brady finished with a lower QB rating (53.5) and fewer passing yards (228) than rookie Geno Smith (71.9, 233).

Richardson, who created multiple headlines in the run-up to Sunday's rematch, said of his teammates: "They backed me up today. Everybody did. We came with it."

He later explained his weeklong comments about Brady: "I wasn't trying to be disrespectful in no type of way. I just got tired of people asking me if I'm afraid of someone - another man at that? Nah, man."

Though Richardson may be the most vocal of the bunch, each one of Dunbar's defensive linemen plays with that proverbial chip. And together, they plan on proving a point.

Dunbar still has a poem among his possessions - the collection of verses given to him in 2004 by a former player while he served on the Bears' coaching staff.

"It basically starts off: 'The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf,' " Dunbar said. "And I think Mo is our wolf. When we sit in that D-line room, we talk about not one of us is going to beat you, all six of us that dress on game day are going to beat you.

"We're going to be a bunch of crazy wolves, hyenas, whatever you want to call them. And we're going to search together. 'Cause we've got a saying: Together we eat."

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