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Rodgers: Wilkerson a 'Strong Leader'

Chan Gailey, Kacy Rodgers & Bobby April Met with the Media on Thursday


Since the start of the 2013 season, Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson has racked up 23.5 sacks in 38 games. Wilkerson, who collected two sacks of Tyrod Taylor in Week 10, leads the Green & White with seven.

"I didn't realize how good he actually is. To being able to see him work every day, he is a tremendous talent," said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers of Wilkerson. "And the thing is he comes across as quiet, but he is a leader over there. He's always, 'What can I do? Do I need to do more? What do we need to do?' He is a really good player, really a strong leader for us."

Wilkerson ranks fourth on the defense with 43 tackles, and second with 18 QB pressures. The 6'4", 315-pounder is a versatile performer who remains stout against the run and is on pace to break his career high of 10.5 sacks in 2013.

"You want him at the nose, he'll be in there," Rodgers said. "You want him at the 3-technique, he'll be there. You put him at end. His versatility, he's just a really good player."

Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will return to Houston this week and face a Texans team that traded him to the Green & White in March. Fitzpatrick, a 32-year-old veteran signalcaller who is operating in a Chan Gailey offense for a fourth season, has some freedom to audible on occasion.

"There are certain things we can get in and can get out of, and there are certain things that we don't get out of," Gailey told the media today. "We've given him freedom in quite a few areas, but some areas we don't and that varies week to week depending on the game plan and who we're playing and what we think we're getting and things like that."

With Gailey and Fitzpatrick on the same page, the Jets rank No. 1 overall in converting both red zone (71.0%) and goal-to-goal possessions (88.2%) into touchdowns. Eric Decker is the team leader in receiving touchdowns with seven and his 45 TDs since 2010 are tied for fourth-most in the league among wideouts.

"One thing that helps is they're doubling Brandon, so he gets a decent amount of the 1-on-1 coverage," Gailey said of Decker. "And he has a unique knack for finding the creases in the zone if they play zone. And if it's man, he gets on the right edge and Fitz knows where he's going to be. And when you get on the right edge and when Fitz knows where you are and where you're going to be, it works out. He's got a unique knack for having a feel for the game, especially down in the red zone."

Bobby April admitted it's been a frustrating season for him as special teams coordinator, in large part because of three plays the Jets have given up: Darren Sproles' punt-return TD vs. Philadelphia, the blocked-punt TD recovery by Washington, and, last Thursday, the Bills' return of Devin Smith's fumbled kickoff return.

But April remains bullish about his "teams" and especially about Smith, the second-round rookie who he said will continue to see work on kick returns.

"I've got a lot of confidence in the young man," April said. "I think he's going to be good. I think he is good. He's got things he's got to improve on, and I think he's willing to take those steps to do it. And he's a talented kid, he's a tough guy, he'll go up in the briar patch, and he's fast.

"We want to see the guy do it and we think he can do it. We think he's a big-play player. So from a special teams standpoint, we want this guy to make some plays for us and we're not going to be pulling back every rein because he made a mistake."

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