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Making the Leap: Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson steps up

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As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. First up: the New York Jets.

Muhammad Wilkerson ready to anchor Jets' D

We told you earlier this month about Rex Ryan's plans to employ a four-man front in situations this season, especially inside the AFC East. The 4-3 puts New York's best players on the field and Ryan is counting on second-year defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to disrupt offenses early and often.

Making the Leap

Around the League will pick from each NFL team one player who's poised for a breakout season in 2012:

AFC East
Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

"He's going to be hard to ignore," Rex Ryan told the New York Daily News last week.

New York's coaching staff has hinted at big plans for Wilkerson throughout the offseason. The team's first-round pick in 2011 played in 57.7 percent of the team's snaps as a rookie, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that could jump to 80 percent this season.

"Mo's only going to come off the field when he needs a break," Pettine told the newspaper.

Now, friends, this is Rex Ryan, talking, but the coach sees strains of Darrelle Revis in the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Wilkerson, praising the lineman's attention to detail and obsession with film study: "Every day he competes. (Wilkerson) has some of the ability where I think (he) can take it to that next level. Can he be Revis? I don't know."

Tall order, but Wilkerson will see plenty of action in a rotation with Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis. Add Quinton Coples to the mix and the Jets have the makings of a dangerous defensive front that can capably shift between the 3-4 and 4-3 depending on what the offense shows. Wilkerson wasn't a wallflower last season. He showed the Jets he can shoulder the load. They'll lean on him hard in 2012.

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