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Muhammad Wilkerson says tighter coverage in secondary would help d-line get to QBs

New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96)

New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) looks on before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 5, 2016. Credit: Lee S Weissman

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Muhammad Wilkerson insisted he wasn’t throwing the Jets’ secondary under the bus. But the more he tried to explain the lack of production from the defensive line, the more clear it became that the struggles on the back end are partly to blame.

The Jets (3-9) have 20 sacks, tying them with this week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers (1-11), for 30th in the league.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just about sacks. It’s disruption,” Wilkerson, who has 2.5 sacks after recording a career-high 12 last season, said on Thursday. “I feel like we got some hits on [Colts quarterback Andrew] Luck, but just one step. He got the ball out.

“So maybe a little tighter coverage, we get those sacks.”

The Jets are 23rd in pass defense, allowing 264.4 yards per game, and have mustered only 13 quarterback takedowns since sacking Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton seven times in Week 1.

Last year, the Jets registered 39 sacks and in 2014 they had 45.

“At the end of the day, everybody’s out here getting paid to play,” said Wilkerson, “and offensive coordinators are game-planning and quarterbacks are getting the ball out quick and they’re making plays. It’s not an excuse. We’ve just got to have tighter coverage and get to the quarterback.”

Told that his comments may be viewed as being critical of the secondary, Wilkerson attempted to clarify. “I’m not calling out the secondary,” he said. “We all know that, as a defense, we work together and we play for each other. But it works hand-in-hand. We can get to the quarterback, like I said, but if they’re not holding them for just that one second, then the ball is going to get out.

“But we can get hits on them,” he added. “Those hits will eventually take a toll on a quarterback and we want that. But at the end of the day, we’re still going to try to be disruptive.

“Those guys are working their tails off each and every week, every day in practice and in the game, and they try to do the best they can. Just like we try to do the best we can up front. So it’s not me calling nobody out. Like I said, we all know we can do better — myself, the whole team.”

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