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.
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.
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.