Monday, December 10, 2012

Jets' young D-linemen provide sign of things to come


The New York Jets ran the ball down the throats of the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, but the efforts of their offensive line and tailbacks may have taken a back seat to those of a pair of promising young defensive linemen in Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson was stout throughout the game, logging nearly double the amount of playing time as Coples in the Jets' victory. But Coples made significant use of his work.

Each player recorded a sack, with Wilkerson hurrying quarterback Chad Henne three times and hitting him once, according to Pro Football Focus. Coples hit Henne two more times and hurried him on another. (photo: Daniel Speiss, Flickr)

Coples' QB hurry was a big one, as it ended the Jaguars' last-minute comeback bid, forcing Henne to throw the ball up for grabs and into the hands of Jets defensive back Ellis Lankster.

"It looked like he was eating that tackle up pretty good over there," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Monday of Coples, via "This is really the kind of ability that he has. I’m encouraged by it."

Each player also had a tackle for a loss in the run game.

Wilkerson has had a monster year, maybe the best of any other player on the team's defense. In fact, Pro Football Focus has him rated as the team's most productive player this season and the third best defensive lineman in the NFL.

"It seems like we say it each week, but clearly he’s a guy we talked about at the beginning of the year. For an interior lineman, he’s doing an incredible job," Ryan said. "Backs are having to pick him up. It’s rare to have an interior lineman get the attention from the backs. Usually that’s assigned to an outside edge rusher, but the backs are helping on Mo time and time again. It just shows you what the teams are thinking about this guy.

Wilkerson was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft, and Coples a year later in the draft's opening round. The pair has breathed some youth into a defensive front that was one of the oldest in the NFL a couple years ago.

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