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Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams show improvement in loss to Dolphins

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson celebrates an interception

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson celebrates an interception during the first half of a game against the Dolphins on Oct. 22, 2017. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

If there were a positive taken from the Jets’ 31-28 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday it was the pass rush. Yes, the same pass rush that entered the game with only seven sacks, none from two of their best rushers in defensive ends Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson.

Williams and Wilkerson still don’t have a sack, but the numbers produced against the Dolphins showed major improvement.

Wilkerson, without practicing all week because of toe and shoulder injuries, played his best game of the season, compiling an interception, four total tackles and a quarterback hurry. In a hustle play, Wilkerson chased down running back Jay Ajayi nearly 12 yards during a second quarter screen pass, displaying a burst rarely seen this season.

“I thought he played a good ballgame,” Todd Bowles said. “He was active. He got some quarterback hits, he got the interception, obviously. He was good in the run game. He hustled. He played with a lot of heart.”

Williams, playing with a bone bruise in his left wrist, also was productive with two tackles and three quarterback hits. Bowles, showing creativity with his defense, had Williams blitzing from the middle linebacker position and continued his trend of sending his safeties to blitz off the edges as well.

Overall, the defense was strong until the fourth quarter, when it allowed 17 points and committed too many penalties, including two by cornerback Buster Skrine on the game-tying drive.

“The penalties are very frustrating but we have to keep working at it,” Bowles said. “We work at it all the time and keep chipping away. The guys understand it’s important. We just have to keep grinding.

The pass rush knocked Jay Cutler out of the game — on a Jordan Jenkins hit — and the defense totaled 12 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss, four pass breakups three sacks and two interceptions.

It should have been enough to win the game, but the Jets offense stalled down the stretch and Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore took charge late.

The Jets believe the pass rush will continue to improve after the success against the Dolphins.

One of the low points of the year from the pass rush was during the loss to the Patriots, when it had no sacks against Tom Brady, who was sacked 16 times entering the game.. The Jets defenders talked about getting close but not finishing the deal.

This time, the Jets defense finished plays in making Cutler and Moore uncomfortable in the pocket.

“I think we did a pretty good job of disrupting the quarterback,” Williams said. “We got a few hits on him, a few sacks. We took out the first quarterback and we were hitting the second quarterback as well. I can say that it was a pretty good game pass rushing-wise getting after the quarterback.”

Notes & quotes: The Jets promoted CB Robert Nelson from the practice squad to the active roster and cut RB Travaris Cadet. Nelson was signed because of the uncertain status of CB Xavier Coleman, who injured his shoulder in Sunday’s loss at Miami. The Jets also signed LB Jeremy Cash and RB Akeem Judd to the practice squad and released S Harold Jones-Quartey . . . The Jets have committed 57 penalties, tied for third most in the NFL. Morris Claiborne, Darron Lee and Skrine lead the team with six penalties each.

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