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Mo Wilkerson, Jets Get Back Together Monday

Defense Seeks to Build on Last Year's Unit That Tied Mark for Plays At/Behind LOS

It's been a busy offseason for Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets' rising star has been mixing in charity work and other fun things with fatherhood.

"I'm spending time with my family," he told me after a Play 60 event he was involved in last week. "My daughter turned 2 last month, and I'm having a little boy next month. I'm just doing the family thing."

Oh, yeah, and he's staying in shape to take on the return to football, which begins Monday when many of the members of his football family come back to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for the first day of the voluntary "phase one" part of the team's offseason program.

Mo smiled at the memory of the upbeat way he and his teammates closed the curtains on last season, with the rousing 20-7 KO of the Dolphins and the announcement of Rex Ryan's return to lead the Jets for a fifth season.

"We finished 8-8. People expected us to finish worse than that, so we exceeded their expectations but not ours," he said. "It was a good way to finish the season but hopefully we'll roll it over into the upcoming season.

"We'll come back here on the 21st, we'll have our OTAs and everything. That's just a great way to start off the season, by working out with each other and building a bond. This is where it all starts."

Mo has talked this offseason about his desire to be "a Jet for life," and that's music to Jets Nation's ears. He's a local guy from Linden down U.S. 1 not far from MetLife Stadium and he's got a great career ahead.

And another reason he likes it here in green and white is that he's part of the group of up-and-comers on the line and in the front seven. Sons of anarchy, indeed.

"Right now, it's not about individual goals. I just feel like everybody can do something a little better," he said. "There's always room for improvement, and I think myself and my teammates have been doing that this offseason, getting ready to get back. Because at the end of the day, I think we all understand that we have the ability to do something special here for the Jets."

One of his unit's goals could well be to spend even more time in the opponent's backfield. I finished some research recently, the results of which shouldn't come as much of a surprise: The Jets defense in 2013 equaled the Jets record since 1970 for the most plays made at or behind the line of scrimmage.

We had 159 tackles for loss/no gain for the year. The last time we had more than last year's 41 sacks were the 43 QB takedowns by the 1995 (yes, '95) team. There were 101 run stops at/behind the line, most since '96, and 17 tackles on receptions, tied for the most since '70.

The only other team with 159 stops for loss/no gain? None other than the 1981 New York Sack Exchange team. The unit, led by Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Abdul Salaam and Greg Buttle, combined its franchise-record 66 sacks with 93 run/reception stops as it created havoc for enemy offenses.

Here are the top six Jets teams that averaged more than 9.0 tackles at or behind the line per game since 1970:

Just like those great names from the early Eighties, the current Jets have come together with the likes of Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Quinton Coples, Damon Harrison, David Harris, Demario Davis, Kenrick Ellis and old head Calvin Pace. Most are relative NFL "youngsters," and Wilkerson can't wait to see how they mature.

"We're real young up front, we're very talented. We're pretty much in our prime now, and hopefully we'll get to play together for a long time," Mo said. "We feel like our time is now."

And now, or more precisely Monday, is the time for the Jets veterans to get back together and start the building process for the season ahead.

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