FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Starting defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and backup running back Bilal Powell are questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Jets coach Todd Bowles said Friday.
Wilkerson (shoulder and toe) and Powell (strained calf) didn’t practice Friday, but Bowles said both will work out Sunday before a decision is made on their playing status.
“They may play or they may not,” Bowles said.
On Thursday, he said that if Wilkerson’s toe doesn’t improve, surgery is a possibility.
If Wilkerson misses the game, Bowles said Kony Ealy, Mike Pennel or Ed Stinson will start. When a player doesn’t practice, Bowles usually rules that player out, but he didn’t in the case of Powell and Wilkerson.
All week, the Jets have downplayed the significance of Sunday’s game against the Patriots. The teams are tied for first in the AFC East (along with the Bills, who have a bye).
Though Wilkerson hasn’t recorded a sack or quarterback hit this season, Bowles is depending on him to take on double-teams and play well against the run.
New England is averaging 3.9 yards per carry but had a productive effort against Tampa Bay in a 19-14 victory last week. The Patriots rushed for 113 yards, averaging 4.9 per carry.
The Jets have allowed 4.6 yards per carry this season.
Though Powell might not play, starting running back Matt Forte will return. Forte, who missed the last two games with turf toe, was a full participant in Friday’s practice.
Forte has rushed 23 times for 94 yards and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry this season. The Jets would like a veteran such as Forte to deal with blitz pickups and become a dependable receiver out of the backfield for quarterback Josh McCown.
If Powell doesn’t play, rookie Elijah McGuire and Travaris Cadet will back up Forte.
Ealy, who missed last week’s game at Cleveland with a shoulder injury, practiced fully and will play against the Patriots.
Notes & quotes: Bowles laughed for about 10 seconds when asked about the health scare he had in December last season, the day before facing the Patriots. “It was tough, but it helped me get to where I am right now from a health standpoint, so it’s good,” he said . . . He said the team will “cross that bridge when we get to it” if the NFL mandates that players stand for the national anthem . . . LB Josh Martin, who was inactive the last two games with a sprained ankle, should play Sunday. “It stinks not being out there,” he said. “It’s part of the game, something you have to learn to live with.”