Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has terrorized opposing backfields for six seasons, but this year he's making his presence felt in a different way. Vocally.
"Pretty much get out of my comfort zone," Wilkerson said of his new leadership role. "I've always been a leader on this team, but I haven't been vocal. I had other guys who were leaders who were more vocal than I was. They're no longer here, so I took it upon myself to step up and be more vocal."
The 6'4", 315-pounder broke down the team huddle before the Jets' first preseason matchup against the Titans, but the Temple product has been picking up his teammates' spirits throughout the long, grueling days of training camp.
"I have noticed that and I love it," fellow lineman Leonard Williams said. "We talk to each other sometimes and if we see something happening, we bring it up together. He's definitely being a great leader and stepping up. He's helping out the team and making sure everyone is staying focused and in the right direction. He's catching the little things when they happen and stopping it before it continues. I think that's the most important part — not waiting for it to get too bad to where we have to say something, but nip something in the bud before it starts."
Wilkerson said he's in good health as he battled an ankle for the majority of last season. The 27-year-old and the rest of the defensive line have taken it upon themselves to set the tone for the rest of the defense in practices and games. During TV timeouts in the preseason opener, the unit ran sprints down the sideline for further conditioning. However, Wilkerson still has individual preseason goals he'd like to accomplish before the Jets travel to Orchard Park in Week 1.
"Just work on the fundamentals, establish the line of scrimmage and take control of that," Wilkerson said. "Get after the quarterback, do my job and be a leader. Make sure the defense is all together, all 11 guys locked in and doing what they're supposed to do."